Brittany Griner: WNBA star sentenced to 9 years in Russian jail for drug-trafficking

Khimki metropolis court docket choose Anna Sotnikova sentenced and fined Griner 1 million rubles, or about $16,400. She mentioned the court docket took into consideration Griner’s partial act of contrition, regret for the deed, state of well being and charitable actions. Prosecutors had demanded that he be sentenced to 9.5 years in jail.

“I by no means meant to harm anyone, I by no means meant to hazard the Russian inhabitants, I did not imply to interrupt any legal guidelines right here,” Griner mentioned. “I’ve made an trustworthy mistake and I hope your determination doesn’t finish my life. I do know everybody retains speaking about political pawns and politics, however I hope it is going to come out of this court docket.” To this point.

“I need to reiterate that I had no intention of breaking any Russian regulation. I had no intention. I didn’t plot or plan to commit this crime,” she mentioned.

After sentencing, Griner informed a CNN producer as he left the courtroom, “I really like my household.”

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The choice comes almost 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 into her baggage. The 2-time US Olympic basketball gold medalist pleaded responsible final month to drug prices, saying she had packed the medicine in a rush in a rush.

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

“We’re deeply dissatisfied by the decision. As authorized professionals, we consider that the court docket must be honest to all, no matter nationality. The court docket utterly ignored all proof of the protection, and most significantly Responsible plea,” he mentioned. Assertion. “This contradicts current authorized follow. Contemplating the quantity of substance (to not point out the defects of experience) and the plea, the decision is completely unreasonable. We will definitely file an attraction.”

Talking outdoors the court docket, Boykov mentioned the common time in jail for one of these crime is 5 years, including that a few third of the convicts obtain parole.

Griner “just isn’t doing nicely at present,” mentioned Blagovolina, a accomplice on the Rybalkin, Gortsunian, Daikin and Companions regulation agency. The protection staff expects Griner to have the ability to discuss to his household subsequent week. Blagovolina mentioned Griner will return to the detention middle the place she is being held.

Sentenced amid pressure in US-Russia relations

The cruel punishment comes in opposition to the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the nation’s saber-rattling with the US and Europe. The US State Division says Griner has been wrongfully detained, and US officers have provided a doable prisoner swap with Russia in an effort to deliver him dwelling safely.
Elizabeth Rudd, in command of the US embassy in Russia, mentioned the sentence was a “miscarriage of justice” and US President Joe Biden mentioned the longer sentence was “unacceptable”.
Joe Biden calls Brittany Griner's sentence 'unacceptable'

“At the moment, US citizen Brittany Griner acquired a jail sentence that’s already one other reminder to the world: Russia is unfairly detaining Brittany. That is unacceptable, and I name on Russia to launch her instantly. In order that he could be along with his spouse, liked folks, associates and teammates,” Biden mentioned in an announcement.

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

He mentioned the US is working to deliver dwelling Griner and Paul Whelan, a US citizen who has been held for alleged espionage by Russia since 2018. “It is an absolute precedence for me and the division,” Blinken mentioned.

Nationwide Safety Council spokesman John Kirby mentioned it’s now “as much as the Russian facet” whether or not Griner’s sentence opens new doorways for prisoner swap talks.

“We’re nonetheless ready to contemplate our proposal significantly and positively, and if it means on the Russian facet that they really feel they’ve to take action,” Kirby informed reporters at a White Home briefing on Thursday. extra highly effective, so be it.”

Kirby reiterated that the US place stays that it needs Russia to “take the deal to the desk as a result of it is a good one, it is a honest one, and it’ll assist deliver Paul and Brittany dwelling.”

CNN nationwide safety analyst Steve Corridor mentioned the cruel sentence was no shock and argued that Russia’s court docket proceedings weren’t legit.

“It is all efficiency in Russia. There was little doubt about what was about to occur,” he mentioned. “What Vladimir Putin is making an attempt to do is mainly inflate Ms. Griner’s discount value.”

Final week, CNN reported that the Biden administration proposed a prisoner swap with Russia, providing the discharge of a convicted Russian arms smuggler, Victor Bout, in change for Griner and Whelan. Russian officers opposed the US provide, a number of sources conversant in the dialogue have mentioned, however US officers didn’t settle for the request as a sound counteroffer.

The Kremlin warned on Tuesday that US “megaphone diplomacy” wouldn’t assist in talks for a prisoner change involving Griner. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov mentioned Moscow believed these talks must be “separate”.

Griner’s WNBA staff, the Phoenix Mercury, performed the Connecticut Suns on Thursday evening. Earlier than the sport, the groups noticed 42 seconds of silence because the gamers folded arms. On the finish of the tribute, the viewers started chanting, “Convey him dwelling! Convey him dwelling!” Griner, a six-time WNBA All-Star, wears quantity 42 for Mercury.

Wed 77-64 misplaced. Level guard Skylar Diggins-Smith, carrying a “We Are BG” T-shirt, mentioned after the sport that the choice was disastrous.

“No person even wished to play at present,” she informed reporters. “How will you method the sport, method the court docket and with a transparent thoughts, and our complete group is crying earlier than the sport? Since you attempt to respect that and also you attempt to come out.” Attempt to nonetheless work onerous for that.”

Earlier, Mercury issued an announcement calling the choice “an vital milestone within the nightmare of 168 days”.

“We’re impressed by BG’s power each day and we’re dedicated to publicly prime her till she returns safely to American soil. We won’t enable her to neglect,” the assertion mentioned. Will give. We’re BG.”

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

“It is simply heartbreaking,” mentioned the coach. “To listen to his phrases and his apologies. Simply making an attempt to ship him love, prayers and power.”

In a joint assertion, WNBA Commissioner Kathy Engelbert and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver criticized the decision and sentencing as “unfair and unlucky, however not sudden.”

“The dedication of the WNBA and the NBA to his protected return has not waned and it’s our hope that we’re lastly close to the top of this means of bringing BG dwelling to the US,” he mentioned.

Protection requested for leniency in closing arguments

The court docket listening to started on Thursday when Griner arrived in handcuffs, taken to the defendant’s cage by Russian authorities. As soon as empty, he spoke along with his authorized staff after which retained a photograph of the UMMC Ekaterinburg basketball staff, the Russian staff for which he performed through the WNBA offseason.

In closing arguments, Blagovolina argued that Griner by no means used marijuana in Russia and by no means meant to take action. The lawyer mentioned that there was no want for him to deliver the wipe cartridge to Russia. All this confirms the whole absence of intention in her actions, Blagovolina argued.

Substance investigation into Brittany Griner's vape cartridge violated Russian law, defense expert says

Even when Griner ever used medical marijuana, it was solely at dwelling in Arizona, uncommon and solely with a prescription, she mentioned. She couldn’t know the way strict the legal guidelines are in Russia, Blagovolina mentioned.

Boykov additionally argued that Griner had no alternative to correctly study court docket paperwork. He mentioned that the Russian Structure ensures everybody the proper to make use of their native language and a free selection of the language of communication.

Boykov cited an instance when a language interpreter supplied to Griner flipped via an extended doc submitted by an investigator for translation after which informed Griner, “Mainly, it means you are responsible. Huh.”

All through the trial, Griner’s legal professionals made arguments weakening the prosecution’s case, claiming that his custody was not dealt with correctly after he was stopped on February 17 by personnel at Sheremetyevo Worldwide Airport.

His detention, search and arrest have been “unfair,” Boykov mentioned final week, including extra particulars could be revealed through the closing arguments.

Detained Americans fast facts
After she was stopped on the airport, Griner was requested to signal paperwork she didn’t absolutely perceive, she testified. At first she mentioned, she was utilizing Google Translate on her cellphone, however was later taken to a different room the place her cellphone was taken and requested to signal extra paperwork.

No lawyer was current, Griner testified, and he or she was not informed of her rights. These rights would come with entry to an legal professional as soon as detained and the proper to know what he was suspected of. Underneath Russian regulation, he ought to have been knowledgeable of his rights inside three hours of his arrest.

On Tuesday, on the seventh listening to in her case, a protection skilled testified that the investigation into the substance contained in Griner’s vape cartridge didn’t adjust to Russian regulation. Blagovolina additionally informed CNN that specialists on her staff recognized “sure defects” within the machines used to measure the substance.

At trial, Griner testified that he had a prescription for medical hashish and had no intention of bringing the drug to Russia. Her legal professionals had earlier mentioned that after her detention in February, she was examined for medicine and was clear.

“We proceed to emphasise that, inadvertently, rapidly, he packed his suitcase and didn’t have in mind the truth that substances permitted to be used in the US ended up on this suitcase and within the Russian Federation Arrive,” mentioned Boykov, of the Moscow Authorized Heart.

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

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