SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) –  Upon news of her release from Russian authorities, Brittney Griner’s wife thanked a lot of people for their role in her release, including a former New Mexico governor. Bill Richardson now dedicates his time to negotiating deals for American prisoners, playing a key role in her release.

The former governor said negotiations were tense on Griner’s release. He said it wasn’t easy but knew the day of her release would come soon.

“We’re getting an American icon back, a basketball player, a wrongfully detained woman. Yeah, she made a mistake, but the good thing is that we were able,” said Richardson.

Four months ago Richardson was involved in the release of former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed. He was also detained in Russia. Now, with both Reed’s and Griner’s release, Richardson said that’s two for two.

While Richardson celebrates Griner being free from Russian authorities, Richardson explained his work is far from done as he is still trying to secure the release of Corporate Security Director Paul Whelan.

“Now we have to get this Paul Whelan out. Another marine, wrongfully detained a military guy. He’s been there for years, and he’s often forgotten because Brittney Griner is a big star and gets all the media, but now we have to concentrate on Whelan,” added Richardson.

Richardson explained he’s been trying to get Whelan out for four years, and that case has been more challenging with the Russians presenting new evidence against Whelan.

However, Richardson said he is optimistic about Whelan’s release. He expects that could be before the end of the year.

Story continues below:

Richardson said he has been in contact with Griner’s family, who have thanked him for his efforts in her release and say they are expecting to meet up with her in San Antonio where she will be seen for medical treatment.