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Judge issues verdict in WNBA star Brittney Griner’s drug-smuggling trial

An emotional Brittney Griner apologized Thursday for her actions as her drug possession trial drew to a close Thursday in Russia and a prosecutor urged the American basketball star to be convicted and sentenced to 9 1/2 years in prison in a case which reached the highest level. levels of US-Russia diplomacy. With a judge set to issue a verdict later in the day and a conviction, Griner made a final appeal in court and said she had no intention of breaking the law by bringing cannabis oil vaping cartridges when she flew to Moscow on February to play basketball in the city of Yekaterinburg. “I want to apologize to my teammates, my team, my fans and the city (of Yekaterinburg) for the mistake I made and the embarrassment I caused them,” Griner said, her voice breaking. “I also want to apologize to my parents, my siblings, the Phoenix Mercury organization back home, the amazing women of the WNBA and my amazing husband back home.” He called it “an honest mistake”, adding: “I hope your decision doesn’t end my life.” Under Russian law, Griner, 31, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted. Although a conviction is all but certain, given that Russian courts rarely acquit defendants and Griner has admitted to having cannabis oil vapor cartridges in her luggage, judges have a lot of leeway in sentencing. Lawyers for the Phoenix Mercury center and two-time Olympic gold medalist have pursued strategies to bolster Griner’s claim that she had no criminal intent and that the canisters ended up in her luggage due to hasty packing. They presented character witnesses from the Russian team she plays for in the WNBA offseason and written testimony from a doctor who said he prescribed cannabis for pain treatment. Griner’s lawyer Maria Blagovolina argued that Griner brought the cartridges with her to Russia by mistake and only used cannabis to treat her pain from injuries sustained in her career. He said he only used it in Arizona, where medical marijuana is legal. He pointed out that Griner was rushing to get ready after a grueling flight and suffering from the effects of COVID-19. Blagovolina also pointed out that the analysis of the cannabis found in Griner’s possession was incorrect and violated legal procedures. Blagovolina asked the court to acquit Griner, noting that she had no prior criminal record and hailing her role in “developing the Russian basketball”. Defense attorney Alexander Boykov also highlighted Griner’s role in taking her Yekaterinburg team to multiple championships, noting that she was loved and admired by her teammates. He told the judge that a conviction would undermine Russia’s efforts to develop national sports and make Moscow’s call to depoliticize sports sound shallow. Boykov added that even after her arrest, Griner won the sympathy of both her guards and prison inmates, who supported her by shouting, “Brittney, everything’s going to be okay!” when he took prison walks. Prosecutor Nikolai Vlasenko insisted that Griner packaged the cannabis oil intentionally and asked the court to fine Griner 1 million rubles (about $16,700) in addition to the prison sentence. It is unclear when the verdict will be announced. If she is not released, attention will turn to the high possibility of a prisoner exchange. Before her trial began in July, the State Department labeled her “wrongfully detained,” moving her case under the supervision of its special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, effectively the government’s chief hostage negotiator. Then last week, in an extraordinary move, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, urging him to accept a deal under which Griner and Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned in Russia convicted of espionage, he would be released. The Lavrov-Blinken call marked the highest known contact between Washington and Moscow since Russia sent troops to Ukraine more than five months ago. Griner’s direct approach runs counter to US efforts to isolate the Kremlin. People familiar with the proposal say it envisions swapping Griner and Whelan for notorious arms dealer Victor Booth, who is serving a prison sentence in the United States. It highlights the public pressure the White House faced to release Griner. White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre said Monday that Russia responded in “bad faith” to the U.S. government’s offer, a counteroffer that U.S. officials do not take seriously. He declined to elaborate. Russian officials have derided the US statements on the case, saying they show disrespect for Russian law. They remained poker-faced, urging Washington to discuss the issue through “quiet diplomacy without disclosure of speculative information.”

An emotional Brittney Griner apologized Thursday for her actions as her drug possession trial drew to a close Thursday in Russia and a prosecutor urged the American basketball star to be convicted and sentenced to 9 1/2 years in prison in a case which reached the highest level. levels of US-Russia diplomacy.

With a judge set to deliver a verdict later in the day and a conviction all but certain, Griner made a final appeal in court and said she had no intention of breaking the law by bringing cannabis oil vaping cartridges when she flew to Moscow in February to play basketball in the city of Yekaterinburg.

“I want to apologize to my teammates, my club, my fans and the city (of Yekaterinburg) for the mistake I made and the embarrassment I caused them,” Griner said, her voice cracking. “I also want to apologize to my parents, my siblings, the Phoenix Mercury organization back home, the amazing women of the WNBA and my amazing husband back home.”

He called it an “honest mistake”, adding: “I hope your decision doesn’t end my life.”

Under Russian law, Griner, 31, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Although a conviction is all but certain, given that Russian courts rarely acquit defendants and Griner has admitted to having cannabis oil vaping cartridges in her luggage, judges have a lot of leeway in sentencing.

Attorneys for the Phoenix Mercury center and two-time Olympic gold medalist have pursued strategies to bolster Griner’s claim that she had no criminal intent and that the containers ended up in her luggage due to hasty packing. They presented character witnesses from the Russian team she plays for in the WNBA offseason and written testimony from a doctor who said he prescribed cannabis for pain treatment.

Griner’s lawyer Maria Blagovolina argued that Griner brought the cartridges with her to Russia by mistake and only used cannabis to treat her pain from injuries sustained in her career. He said he only used it in Arizona, where medical marijuana is legal.

He pointed out that Griner packed up in a hurry after a grueling flight and was suffering from the effects of COVID-19. Blagovolina also pointed out that the analysis of the cannabis found in Griner’s possession was incorrect and violated legal procedures.

Blagovolina asked the court to acquit Griner, noting that she had no previous criminal record and hailing her role in the “development of Russian basketball.”

Another defense attorney, Alexander Boykov, also highlighted Griner’s role in taking her Yekaterinburg team to multiple championships, noting that she was loved and admired by her teammates.

He told the judge that a conviction would undermine Russia’s efforts to develop national sports and would undermine Moscow’s call to depoliticize sports.

Boykov added that even after her arrest, Griner won the sympathy of both her guards and inmates at the prison, who supported her by shouting, “Brittney, everything’s going to be okay!” when he took prison walks.

Prosecutor Nikolai Vlasenko insisted that Griner packaged the hemp oil deliberately and asked the court to fine Griner 1 million rubles (about $16,700) in addition to the prison sentence.

It is unclear when the verdict will be announced. If she is not released, attention will turn to the high possibility of a prisoner exchange.

Before her trial began in July, the State Department designated her as “unreasonably detained,” moving her case under the supervision of its special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, effectively the government’s chief hostage negotiator.

Then last week, in an extraordinary move, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, urging him to accept a deal under which Griner and Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned in Russia for an espionage conviction, they would be released. .

The Lavrov-Blinken call marked the highest known contact between Washington and Moscow since Russia sent troops to Ukraine more than five months ago. Griner’s direct approach runs counter to US efforts to isolate the Kremlin.

People familiar with the proposal say it calls for an exchange of Griner and Whelan for notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is serving a prison sentence in the United States. It underscores the public pressure the White House has faced to free Griner.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Monday that Russia had responded “in bad faith” to the US government’s offer, a counteroffer that US officials do not consider serious. He declined to give further details.

Russian officials have derided US statements on the case, saying they show disrespect for Russian law. They remained poker-faced, urging Washington to discuss the issue through “quiet diplomacy without disclosure of speculative information.”

Judge issues verdict in WNBA star Brittney Griner’s drug-smuggling trial Source link Judge issues verdict in WNBA star Brittney Griner’s drug-smuggling trial

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