Brittney Griner Case: Prosecutor Asks for 9½-Year Sentence

KHIMKI, Russia — An emotional Brittney Griner apologized Thursday for her actions as her drug possession trial drew to an in depth Thursday in Russia, and a prosecutor urged that the American basketball star be convicted and sentenced to 9 1/2 years in jail in a case that reached the very best ranges of U.S.-Russia diplomacy.

With a choose set to challenge a verdict later within the day and a conviction all however sure, Griner made a closing attraction to the court docket and mentioned she had no intention to interrupt the regulation by bringing vape cartridges with hashish oil when she flew to Moscow in February to play basketball within the metropolis of Yekaterinburg.

“I need to apologize to my teammates, my membership, my followers and town of (Yekaterinburg) for my mistake that I made and the embarrassment that I introduced on them,” Griner mentioned, her voice cracking. “I need to additionally apologize to my dad and mom, my siblings, the Phoenix Mercury group again at residence, the wonderful ladies of the WNBA, and my wonderful partner again at residence.”

She known as it “an trustworthy mistake,” including: “hope in your ruling it doesn’t finish my life.”

Beneath Russian regulation, the 31-year-old Griner faces as much as 10 years in jail if convicted. however judges have appreciable latitude on sentencing.

Though a conviction is all however sure, provided that Russian courts hardly ever acquit defendants and Griner has admitted to having vape cartridges with hashish oil in her baggage, judges have appreciable latitude on sentencing.

Attorneys for the Phoenix Mercury heart and two-time Olympic gold medalist have pursued methods to bolster Griner’s competition that she had no prison intent and that the canisters ended up in her baggage because of hasty packing. They’ve introduced character witnesses from the Russian workforce that she performs for within the WNBA offseason and written testimony from a health care provider who mentioned he prescribed her hashish for ache remedy.

Griner lawyer Maria Blagovolina argued that Griner introduced the cartridges along with her to Russia inadvertently and solely used hashish to deal with her ache from accidents sustained in her profession. She mentioned she used it solely in Arizona, the place medical marijuana is authorized.

She emphasised that Griner was packing in haste after a grueling flight and affected by the results of COVID-19. Blagovolina additionally identified that the evaluation of hashish present in Griner’s possession was flawed and violated authorized procedures.

Blagovolina requested the court docket to acquit Griner, noting that she had no previous prison file and hailing her function in “the event of Russian basketball.”

One other protection lawyer, Alexander Boykov, additionally emphasised Griner’s function in taking her Yekaterinburg workforce to win a number of championships, noting that she was liked and admired by her teammates.

He instructed the choose {that a} conviction would undermine Russia’s efforts to develop nationwide sports activities and make Moscow’s name to depoliticize sports activities sound shallow.

Boykov added that even after her arrest, Griner gained the sympathy of each her guards and jail inmates, who supported her by shouting, “Brittney, all the pieces will probably be OK!” when she went on walks on the jail.

Prosecutor Nikolai Vlasenko insisted that Griner packed the hashish oil intentionally, and he requested the court docket at hand Briner a advantageous of 1 million rubles (about $16,700) along with the jail sentence.

It’s not clear when the decision will probably be introduced. If she doesn’t go free, consideration will flip to the high-stakes risk of a prisoner swap.

Earlier than her trial started in July, the State Division designated her as “wrongfully detained,” transferring her case below the supervision of its particular presidential envoy for hostage affairs, successfully the federal government’s chief hostage negotiator.

Then final week, in a rare transfer, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, urging him to simply accept a deal below which Griner and Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned in Russia on an espionage conviction, would go free.

The Lavrov-Blinken name marked the highest-level recognized contact between Washington and Moscow since Russia despatched troops into Ukraine greater than 5 months in the past. The direct outreach over Griner is at odds with U.S. efforts to isolate the Kremlin.

Folks acquainted with the proposal say it envisions buying and selling Griner and Whelan for the infamous arms dealer Viktor Bout, who’s serving a jail sentence in the USA. It underlines the general public stress that the White Home has confronted to get Griner launched.

White Home Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre mentioned Monday that Russia has made a “unhealthy religion” response to the U.S. authorities’s provide, a counteroffer that American officers don’t regard as severe. She declined to elaborate.

Russian officers have scoffed at U.S. statements in regards to the case, saying they present a disrespect for Russian regulation. They remained poker-faced, urging Washington to debate the difficulty by way of “quiet diplomacy with out releases of speculative info.”

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