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

Muricas News

American ladies’s basketball star Brittney Griner was convicted of intentionally smuggling medicine into Russia and sentenced to 9 years of jail time Thursday in a case that has raised issues she is getting used as a political pawn in Russia’s struggle in opposition to Ukraine.

Decide Anna Sotnikova of the Khimki metropolis courtroom delivered the sentence and fined Griner 1 million rubles, or about $16,400. She stated the courtroom 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.

Previous to the decision, Griner apologized to the courtroom and requested for leniency in an emotional speech.

“I by no means meant to harm anyone, I by no means meant to place in jeopardy the Russian inhabitants, I by no means meant to interrupt any legal guidelines right here,” Griner stated. “I made an trustworthy mistake and I hope that in your ruling that it doesn’t finish my life right here. I do know everyone retains speaking about political pawn and politics, however I hope that that’s removed from this courtroom.

“I wish 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.

The decision 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 2-time US Olympic basketball gold medalist pleaded responsible to drug prices final month and stated she unintentionally packed the medicine whereas in a rush.

The US State Division maintains Griner is wrongfully detained, and US officers have supplied a possible prisoner swap with Russia in an try and deliver her residence safely.

Griner’s legal professionals, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, stated in a written assertion they may enchantment the choice and criticized the courtroom for ignoring their proof.

“We’re very disillusioned by the decision. As authorized professionals, we consider that the courtroom ought to be truthful to everybody no matter nationality. The courtroom fully ignored all of the proof of the protection, and most significantly, the responsible plea,” they stated within the assertion.

“This contradicts the prevailing authorized observe. Taking into consideration the quantity of the substance (to not point out the defects of the experience) and the plea, the decision is totally unreasonable. We will definitely file an enchantment.”

US President Joe Biden stated the prolonged sentence was “unacceptable” and referred to as on Russia to launch her instantly.

“At this time, American citizen Brittney Griner obtained a jail sentence that’s 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 might be together with her spouse, family members, associates, and teammates,” Biden stated in a press release.

Cost d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Russia, Elizabeth Rood, stated the sentence was a “miscarriage of justice” and stated US officers will work to deliver Griner residence safely.

WNBA star’s legal professionals: hashish was prescribed

The listening to Thursday started shortly after Griner arrived at courtroom in handcuffs, escorted by Russian officers into the defendant’s cage. As soon as uncuffed, she spoke together with her authorized crew after which held up a photograph of the UMMC Ekaterinburg basketball crew, the Russian squad she performed for through the WNBA offseason.

In closing arguments, protection lawyer Blagovolina, a associate at Rybalkin, Gortsunyan, Dyakin and Companions legislation agency, 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 have to deliver the vape cartridges to Russia, the lawyer added. All this confirms the entire absence of intent in her actions, Blagovolina argued.

Even when Griner ever used medical marijuana, it was solely at residence again in Arizona, uncommon and solely with a health care provider’s prescription, she added. She couldn’t have recognized how strict the legal guidelines had been in Russia, Blagovolina stated.

Boykov additionally argued Griner had no alternative to correctly study the courtroom paperwork. He stated that the Russian structure ensures everybody the appropriate to make use of their native language and the free alternative of the language of communication.

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

All through 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 Worldwide Airport.

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

After she was stopped within the airport, Griner was made to signal paperwork that she didn’t totally perceive, she testified. At first, she stated, she was utilizing Google translate on her telephone however was later moved to a different room the place her telephone was taken and he or she was made to signal extra paperwork.

No lawyer was current, Griner testified, and her rights weren’t defined to her. These rights would come with entry to an lawyer as soon as she was detained and the appropriate to know what she was suspected of. Beneath Russian legislation, 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 skilled testified that the examination of the substance contained in Griner’s vape cartridges didn’t adjust to Russian legislation. Blagovolina additionally advised Muricas News her crew’s consultants recognized “a number of defects” within the machines used to measure the substance.

At trial, Griner testified she has a health care provider’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 take note of the truth that substances allowed to be used in america ended up on this suitcase and arrived within the Russian Federation,” Boykov, of Moscow Authorized Middle, has stated.

The trial has performed out amid the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the nation’s saber-rattling with the US and Europe.

Final week, Muricas News reported that President Joe Biden’s administration proposed a prisoner swap with Russia, providing to launch a convicted Russian arms trafficker, Viktor Bout, in trade for Griner and one other American detainee, Paul Whelan. Russian officers countered the US supply, a number of sources accustomed to the discussions have stated, however US officers didn’t settle for the request as a professional counteroffer.

The Kremlin additionally warned Tuesday that US “megaphone diplomacy” won’t assist negotiations for a prisoner trade involving Griner. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated Moscow believes these talks ought to be “discrete.”

Griner’s household, supporters and WNBA teammates have continued to precise messages of solidarity and hope as they look ahead to the conclusion of the trial. Her WNBA crew, the Phoenix Mercury, is predicted to play the Connecticut Solar on Thursday evening at 7 p.m. ET.

Earlier than trial proceedings final week, the WNBA gamers union tweeted, “Pricey BG … It’s early in Moscow. Our day is ending and yours is simply starting. Not a day, not an hour goes by that you simply’re not on our minds & in our hearts.”

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