Russian prosecutors seek 9 1/2 years in prison for WNBA star Brittney Griner as sentencing looms

Russian prosecutors on Thursday asked a Russian court to sentence the American basketball star Brittany Griner 9 1/2 years in prison for closing arguments in his drug possession trial.

The trial ends nearly six months after Griner’s arrest at Moscow airport has reached the highest level of US-Russia diplomacy, with Washington proposing a prisoner exchange. Under Russian law, Griner, 31, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Although a conviction seems almost certain, given that Russian courts rarely acquit defendants and Griner has admitted that his baggage contains vape cartridges with cannabis oil, judges have considerable latitude on sentencing.

Griner apologized to the court on Thursday, saying, “I never meant to hurt anyone in order to endanger the Russian population or violate any Russian law. I made an honest mistake and I hope yours.” Verdict, that this doesn’t end my life.” To his family, his teammates, his fans and the Russian people.

“I know everyone keeps talking about political pawns and politics, but I hope it’s far from this courtroom… I hope you mind all the documents, all the character lists All that have been sent on my behalf… This is my second home, and I just wanted to win a championship and make you proud.”

Lawyers at the Phoenix Mercury Center and the two-time Olympic gold medalist have employed tactics to bolster Griner’s argument that he had no criminal intent and that the canisters ended up in his luggage because of hasty packing. She has presented character witnesses for the Russian team that she plays in the WNBA off-season and has written testimony from a doctor who said she prescribed cannabis to treat her pain.

An attorney for Griner’s defense team, Maria Blagovolina, argued that Griner inadvertently brought the cartridges with her and used only cannabis as a drug and only in Arizona, where medical marijuana is legal. One prosecutor, Nikolai Vlasenko, argued that Griner had intentionally packaged the cannabis oil.

It is not clear when the verdict will be delivered. If she doesn’t break free, the focus will turn to the high-stakes Possibility of a prisoner swap,

Before her trial began in July, the State Department designated her as “wrongfully detained”, transferring her case to the supervision of its special presidential envoy for hostage matters, effectively the government’s chief hostage. interlocutor.

Then last week, in an extraordinary move, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, urging him to accept a deal that would see Griner and Paul Whelan, an American accused of spying in Russia I was imprisoned, will be freed. ,

The Lavrov-Blinken call marked the highest level of known contact between Washington and Moscow since Russia sent troops to Ukraine more than five months ago. The direct contact on Griner is in stark contrast to US efforts to isolate the Kremlin.

People familiar with the proposal say it envisions Griner and Whelan trading for the infamous arms dealer. victor bout, It underscores the public pressure the White House has faced to release Griner.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Monday that Russia has “bad faith” in the US government’s proposal, a counter-proposal that US officials do not consider serious. He declined to elaborate.

Russian officials scoffed at US statements about the case, saying they showed disrespect for Russian law. They were poker-faced, urging Washington to discuss the issue through “quiet diplomacy without releasing speculative information”.

one in handwritten letter From Griner, who was delivered to the White House, the WNBA player wrote about how terrified she was that she could be imprisoned in Russia “forever”.

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