In A Russian Prison, WNBA Star Brittney Griner Was Sentenced To Nine Years In Prison For Smuggling Drugs

In A Russian Prison, WNBA Star Brittney Griner Was Sentenced To Nine Years In Prison For Smuggling Drugs

Brittney Griner, the star of the American women’s basketball team, was found guilty Thursday of deliberately smuggling drugs into Russia and sentenced to nine years in prison in a case that has raised concerns that she was being used as a political pawn in Russia’s war against Ukraine.

In A Russian Prison, WNBA Star Brittney Griner Was Sentenced To Nine Years In Prison For Smuggling Drugs Photo by google
In A Russian Prison, WNBA Star Brittney Griner Was Sentenced To Nine Years In Prison For Smuggling Drugs Photo by google

It was judged by Anna Sotnikova from the Khimki city court who sentenced Griner and fined him 1 million rubles, which is about $16,400 at today’s exchange rate.

In addition to Griner’s partial admission of guilt, her remorse for the act, the state of her health, and the charitable activities she had undertaken, the court took these factors into account.

It was requested by the prosecution that she is sentenced to 9.5 years in prison as a punishment for her crimes.
An emotional speech was given by Griner before the verdict, in which he apologized to the court and asked for leniency on behalf of the court.

It was never my intention to hurt anybody, to put the Russian population at risk, or to break any laws here,” Griner said. “I made an honest mistake.

I hope your ruling won’t end my life here. Political pawns and politics are far from this courtroom.
“I want to emphasize that I had no intention of breaking any Russian laws. There was no intent on my part.

In A Russian Prison, WNBA Star Brittney Griner Was Sentenced To Nine Years In Prison For Smuggling Drugs

The crime was not planned or conspired by me,” she said.
Griner told a CNN producer after the sentence, “I love my family.”.

In March of this year, the 31-year-old was arrested at a Moscow airport and accused by Russian prosecutors of attempting to smuggle less than one gram of cannabis oil into her luggage just six months after she was arrested.

It was reported last month that the two-time Olympic gold medalist with the US basketball team pleaded guilty to drug charges and said that she packed the drugs accidentally while rushing around.

As a result of the court’s decision, Griner’s lawyer, Maria Blagovolina, said in a written statement that they will appeal the decision and criticized the court for ignoring the evidence that they presented.

In order to appeal, they have 10 days to do so.
We are very disappointed by the verdict.

As legal professionals, we believe that the court should be fair to everyone, regardless of nationality, and we strongly believe that there was no justice for all.

The court completely ignored all the evidence that was presented by the defense, and most importantly, the guilty plea,” they said in the statement. “This is an absolute violation of the existing legal practice.

Taking into account the amount of the substance (not to mention the defects of the expert) and the plea, the verdict is absolutely unreasonable.

We will certainly appeal.”
During an interview outside court, Boykov said that the average sentence for this type of crime is five years in prison and that almost a third of those convicted get parole when they are sentenced.
Blagovolina, a partner at Rybalkin, Gortsunyan, Dyakin, and Partners, said that Griner is not doing well at the moment.

There is hope among the defense team that Griner will be able to speak with her family by the end of next week.

In A Russian Prison, WNBA Star Brittney Griner Was Sentenced To Nine Years In Prison For Smuggling Drugs Photo by google
In A Russian Prison, WNBA Star Brittney Griner Was Sentenced To Nine Years In Prison For Smuggling Drugs Photo by google

Blagovolina said that Griner will be returned to the detention center where she is being held once she has been released.

This harsh sentence comes amid the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its saber-rattling with the US and European countries in the wake of the invasion.

A possible prisoner swap has been proposed by US officials in an attempt to bring Griner home safely.

According to the US State Department, Griner is wrongfully detained, and the US is offering a possible prisoner swap with Russia to try to free her.

Elizabeth Rood, the Charge d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Russia, said the sentence was a miscarriage of justice and US Vice President Joe Biden said the lengthy sentence was “unacceptable.”
According to Vice President Biden, “Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is just another reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney.

It is unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so that she can be with her family, friends, and teammates,” Biden said in a statement.

The Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a statement in which he criticized the Russian legal system in general, stating that the sentence “puts a spotlight on our significant concerns with the Russian legal system and the Russian government’s misuse of wrongful detentions for the purpose of advancing the Russian government’s agenda, using individuals as political pawns.”

According to him, the US is in the process of bringing back Griner and Paul Whelan, an American citizen who has been held by Russia for alleged espionage since 2018 for crimes against humanity.

Blinken said that this is an absolute priority of mine and that of the Department as well.
Whether Griner’s conviction opens new doors for negotiations of a prisoner swap is now in the hands of the Russian side, according to National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby, who said that it has been left up to the Russian side.

“We are still open to having our proposal seriously and positively considered, and if on the Russian side this means they feel they are more empowered to do that, then that’s fine with us,” Kirby told reporters at the White House briefing on Thursday.

According to Kirby, the US continues to insist that it wants Russia to take the deal on the table since it’s a good deal, it’s a fair one, and it’ll make it easier for Paul and Brittney to get home.
As a CNN national security analyst, Steve Hall said the harsh sentence was not a surprise to him, and that Russia’s court proceedings are not legitimate.

It was all a performance in Russia. There was never any doubt in the mind of anyone as to what would happen,” he said.

He continued, “What Vladimir Putin is trying to do is drive up the price at which Ms. Griner can be bargained for.”.

In the past week, CNN reported that the Biden administration had proposed a prisoner swap with Russia, offering to release a convicted Russian arms trafficker, Viktor Bout, in exchange for Griner and Whelan.

Several sources familiar with the discussions have reported that Russian officials countered the US offer, but US officials did not accept the request as a legitimate counteroffer.

There was a warning Tuesday from the Kremlin that US “megaphone diplomacy” would not help negotiations for a prisoner exchange involving Griner if used.

According to Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesperson, these talks should take place in a “discreet manner.”

Thursday night, Griner’s WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury, took on the Connecticut Sun in a game. The teams held a 42-second moment of silence before the game, during which they linked arms and held hands with each other.

In the course of the tribute, spectators started chanting, “Bring her home! Bring her home!” Griner, a six-time WNBA all-star, wears the No. 42 for the Mercury.

It was a 77-64 loss for the Mercury. Skylar Diggins-Smith, who was wearing a “We Are BG” T-shirt after the game, said that the decision was devastating to him.

Reporters were told by her that no one wanted to even play today. “How are you supposed to approach the game, approach the court, and keep a clear mind in the face of the fact that our whole group is crying before the game? You try to honor her, and you try to come out and still play hard for her in the game.”

Earlier, the Mercury published a statement describing the verdict as “a sobering milestone in what has been a 168-day nightmare” for her.

The statement reads in part: “We are inspired every day by BG’s strength and we are steadfast in our resolve to keep her in the public eye until she is safely back on American soil.

There will be no room for her to be forgotten. We are BG,” the statement continued.
Vanessa Nygaard, the head coach of the team, told CNN in an interview that the guilty verdict and Griner’s sentence were “unacceptable.”

“It’s just heartbreaking,” the coach said with tears in his eyes. In order to hear her words and her apologies, I would like to send her love, prayers, and strength.

The NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and the WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert issued a joint statement in which they denounced the verdict and sentence as “unjustified and unfortunate, but not unexpected.”.

We are confident that the commitment of the WNBA and NBA to bring BG back to the United States has not wavered, and it is our hope that this process of finally bringing her home to the United States is nearing its end, they said.

In closing arguments, the defense requested leniency

The court hearing began shortly after Griner was escorted into the defendant’s cage by Russian officers in handcuffs. Uncuffed, she spoke with her legal team before holding up a photo of the UMMC Ekaterinburg basketball team, the Russian team she played for during the WNBA offseason.

Blagovolina argued in closing arguments that Griner never used marijuana in Russia and never intended to do so.

According to the lawyer, she didn’t need to bring the vape cartridges to Russia.

This confirms Blagovolina’s claim that she acted without any intent.

Even if Griner had ever used medical marijuana in the past, it had only been at home back in Arizona, and it was very rare and only with a doctor’s prescription, she said. In Blagovolina’s opinion, she could not have known how stringent the laws were in Russia, she said.
It was also argued by Boykov that Griner did not have the opportunity to review the court documents in a proper manner.

There is no question that the Russian constitution guarantees everyone the right to use their native language and the freedom to choose the language of communication of their choice.

Boykov cited an example where a language interpreter provided to Griner flipped through a lengthy document that an investigator had provided him for translation and then said to Griner, “Basically, that means that you are guilty.”.

In the course of Griner’s trial, her attorneys have constantly argued that the prosecution’s case is flawed and that her detention at Sheremetyevo International Airport on February 17 was handled incorrectly after she was stopped by airport personnel.

The manner in which she was detained, searched, and arrested was “improper,” Boykov said last week, noting that more details would be revealed during the closing arguments.

During the course of her stop at the airport, Griner was forced to sign documents that she did not fully understand, and she testified in court.

She said that at first, she was using Google translate on her phone, but when she was later moved to another room, she was made to sign more documents and her phone was taken from her.

As Griner testified, she was not represented by a lawyer at the time, and her rights were not explained to her.

The rights of a woman would include the right to have access to an attorney once she has been detained, as well as the right to know what she has been accused of.

In accordance with Russian law, she must have been informed of her rights within three hours of being arrested.

An expert from Griner’s defense testified on Tuesday, at the seventh hearing in her case, that the examination of the substance contained in Griner’s vape cartridges did not comply with Russian law, according to his testimony.

In addition, Blagovolina told CNN that her team’s experts were able to identify “a few defects” in the machines used to measure the substance,

Griner testified at the trial that she has a doctor’s prescription for medical marijuana and that she has no intention of bringing the drug into Russia with her.

After her detention in February, she underwent a drug test and was found to be clean, according to her lawyers at the time.

As Boykov, attorney at Moscow Legal Center has stated, “We continue to insist that the girl packed her suitcase in a hurry, by indiscretion, and did not pay attention to the fact that substances allowed to be used in the United States ended up in this suitcase and arrived in the Russian Federation,”