Brittney Griner: WNBA star sentenced to 9 years in Russian jail for drug-smuggling

Judge Anna Sotnikova of the Khimki metropolis court docket delivered the sentence and fined Griner 1 million rubles, or about $16,400. She stated the court docket took into consideration Griner’s partial request for forgiveness, regret for the deed, state of well being and charitable actions. Prosecutors had requested that she be sentenced to 9.5 years in jail.

“I by no means meant to damage anyone, I by no means meant to put in jeopardy the Russian inhabitants, I by no means meant to break any legal guidelines right here,” Griner stated. “I made an sincere mistake and I hope that in your ruling that it does not finish my life right here. I do know all people retains speaking about political pawn and politics, however I hope that, that’s removed from this courtroom.

“I would like to say once more that I had no intent on breaking any Russian legal guidelines. I had no intent. I didn’t conspire or plan to commit this crime,” she added.

After the sentence, Griner instructed a CNN producer as she left court docket, “I really like my household.”

The verdict comes about six months after the 31-year-old was arrested at a Moscow airport and accused by Russian prosecutors of making an attempt to smuggle lower than 1 gram of hashish oil in her baggage. The two-time US Olympic basketball gold medalist pleaded responsible to drug prices final month and stated she by accident packed the medicine whereas in a rush.

Griner’s legal professionals, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, stated in a written assertion they may attraction the choice and criticized the court docket for ignoring their proof. They have 10 days to attraction.

“We are very upset by the decision. As authorized professionals, we imagine that the court docket ought to be truthful to everybody no matter nationality. The court docket fully ignored all of the proof of the protection, and most significantly, the responsible plea,” they stated in the assertion. “This contradicts the prevailing authorized apply. Taking into consideration the quantity of the substance (not to point out the defects of the experience) and the plea, the decision is completely unreasonable. We will definitely file an attraction.”

Speaking outdoors court docket, Boykov stated that the typical time in jail for this sort of crime is 5 years, including that just about a 3rd of these convicted get parole.

Griner “shouldn’t be doing effective as we speak,” stated Blagovolina, a companion at Rybalkin, Gortsunyan, Dyakin and Partners regulation agency. The protection crew is hopeful that Griner will likely be ready to speak to her household subsequent week. Blagovolina added that Griner will return to the detention heart the place she is being held.

Sentence comes amid tense US-Russia relations

(*9*)The harsh sentence comes amid the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the nation’s saber-rattling with the US and Europe. The US State Department maintains Griner is wrongfully detained, and US officers have provided a possible prisoner swap with Russia in an try to carry her residence safely.

Charge d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Russia, Elizabeth Rood, stated the sentence was a “miscarriage of justice,” and US President Joe Biden stated the prolonged sentence was “unacceptable.”
Joe Biden calls Brittney Griner's sentence 'unacceptable'

“Today, American citizen Brittney Griner obtained a jail sentence that’s yet another reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney. It’s unacceptable, and I name on Russia to launch her instantly so she could be along with her spouse, family members, pals, and teammates,” Biden stated in an announcement.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken criticized the Russian authorized system extra broadly, saying the sentence “places a highlight on our important considerations with Russia’s authorized system and the Russian authorities’s use of wrongful detentions to advance its personal agenda, utilizing people as political pawns.”

He stated the US is working to carry residence Griner and Paul Whelan, an American citizen who has been held by Russia for alleged espionage since 2018. “This is an absolute precedence of mine and the Department’s,” Blinken stated.

It’s now “up to the Russian facet” on whether or not Griner’s conviction opens new doorways for negotiations of a prisoner swap, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby stated.

“We’re nonetheless open to having our proposal severely and positively thought-about, and if on the Russian facet which means they really feel like they’re extra empowered to try this, then so be it,” Kirby instructed reporters in Thursday’s White House briefing.

Kirby reiterated the US place stays that it desires Russia to “take the deal on the desk as a result of it is a good one, it is a truthful one, and it will assist carry Paul and Brittney residence.”

CNN National Security Analyst Steve Hall stated the tough sentence was not a shock and argued that Russia’s court docket proceedings should not legit.

“This is all efficiency in Russia. There was by no means any doubt as to what was going to occur,” he stated. “What Vladimir Putin is making an attempt to do is mainly drive up the bargaining value of Ms. Griner.”

Last week, CNN reported that the Biden administration proposed a prisoner swap with Russia, providing to launch a convicted Russian arms trafficker, Viktor Bout, in alternate for Griner and Whelan. Russian officers countered the US provide, a number of sources acquainted with the discussions have stated, however US officers didn’t settle for the request as a legit counteroffer.

The Kremlin warned Tuesday that US “megaphone diplomacy” is not going to assist negotiations for a prisoner alternate involving Griner. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated Moscow believes these talks ought to be “discrete.”

Griner’s WNBA crew, the Phoenix Mercury, performed the Connecticut Sun on Thursday evening. Before the sport, the groups held a 42-second second of silence as gamers linked arms. Near the tip of the tribute, spectators began chanting, “Bring her residence! Bring her residence!” Griner, a six-time WNBA all-star, wears No. 42 for the Mercury.

The Mercury misplaced 77-64. Point guard Skylar Diggins-Smith, carrying a “We Are BG” T-shirt, stated after the sport the decision was devastating.

“Nobody wished to even play as we speak,” she instructed reporters. “How are you supposed to method the sport, method the court docket and with a transparent thoughts, and our entire group is crying earlier than the sport? Because you attempt to honor her and also you attempt to come out and nonetheless play onerous for her.”

Earlier, the Mercury launched an announcement calling the decision “a sobering milestone in the 168-day nightmare” of her detention.

“We are impressed day-after-day by BG’s power and we’re steadfastly dedicated to preserving her top-of-mind publicly till she is safely again on American soil. We is not going to permit her to be forgotten. We are BG,” the assertion reads.

Head coach Vanessa Nygaard instructed CNN the responsible verdict and Griner’s sentence is “unacceptable.”

“It’s simply heartbreaking,” the coach stated. “To hear her phrases and her apologies. Just making an attempt to ship love, prayers and power to her.”

In a joint assertion, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver criticized the decision and sentence as “unjustified and unlucky, however not sudden.”

“The WNBA and NBA’s dedication to her protected return has not wavered and it’s our hope that we’re close to the tip of this strategy of lastly bringing BG residence to the United States,” they stated.

Defense requested for leniency in closing arguments

The court docket listening to Thursday started shortly after Griner arrived in handcuffs, escorted by Russian officers into the defendant’s cage. Once uncuffed, she spoke along with her authorized crew after which held up a photograph of the UMMC Ekaterinburg basketball crew, the Russian squad she performed for throughout the WNBA offseason.

In closing arguments, Blagovolina argued that Griner by no means used marijuana in Russia and that she by no means had the intention of doing so. She had no want to carry the vape cartridges to Russia, the lawyer added. All this confirms the entire absence of intent in her actions, Blagovolina argued.

Examination of the substance in Brittney Griner's vape cartridges violated Russian law, defense expert says

Even if Griner ever used medical marijuana, it was solely at residence again in Arizona, uncommon and solely with a physician’s prescription, she added. She could not have identified how strict the legal guidelines had been in Russia, Blagovolina stated.

Boykov additionally argued that Griner had no alternative to correctly look at the court docket paperwork. He stated that the Russian structure ensures everybody the appropriate to use their native language and the free selection of the language of communication.

Boykov cited an occasion when a language interpreter supplied to Griner flipped by a prolonged doc provided by an investigator for translation after which instructed Griner, “Basically, it means that you’re responsible.”

Throughout the trial, Griner’s attorneys have laid out arguments undermining the prosecution’s case and claiming her detention was not dealt with accurately after she was stopped February 17 by personnel on the Sheremetyevo International Airport.

Her detention, search and arrest had been “improper,” Boykov stated final week, noting extra particulars can be revealed throughout closing arguments.

Detained Americans Fast Facts
After she was stopped on the airport, Griner was made to signal paperwork that she didn’t absolutely perceive, she testified. At first, she stated, she was utilizing Google translate on her cellphone however was later moved to one other room the place her cellphone was taken and she or he was made to signal extra paperwork.

No lawyer was current, Griner testified, and her rights weren’t defined to her. Those rights would come with entry to an lawyer as soon as she was detained and the appropriate to know what she was suspected of. Under Russian regulation, she ought to have been knowledgeable of her rights inside three hours of her arrest.

On Tuesday, on the seventh listening to in her case, a protection professional testified that the examination of the substance contained in Griner’s vape cartridges didn’t adjust to Russian regulation. Blagovolina additionally instructed CNN her crew’s specialists recognized “a couple of defects” in the machines used to measure the substance.

At trial, Griner testified that she has a physician’s prescription for medical hashish and had no intention of bringing the drug into Russia. Following her detention in February, she was examined for medicine and was clear, her legal professionals beforehand stated.

“We proceed to insist that, by indiscretion, in a rush, she packed her suitcase and didn’t concentrate to the truth that substances allowed for use in the United States ended up in this suitcase and arrived in the Russian Federation,” Boykov, of Moscow Legal Center, has stated.

CNN’s Jill Martin, Elizabeth Wolfe, Allie Malloy, Travis Caldwell, Dakin Andone, Kylie Atwood, Evan Perez, Jennifer Hansler, Natasha Bertrand, Carolyn Manno and Frederik Pleitgen contributed to this report.

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