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

[Breaking news update, 11:30 a.m. ET]

American WNBA star Brittney Griner has been sentenced by a Russian court docket to 9 several years of jail time, Decide Anna Sotnikova of the Khimki city court stated Thursday.

[Previous update, 11:11 a.m. ET]

American WNBA star Brittney Griner was convicted in a Russian court Thursday of smuggling medicine with legal intent, amid concerns she is remaining used as a political pawn in Russia’s war in opposition to Ukraine.

Griner faces up to 10 a long time in jail for the charge, and prosecutors asked for 9.5 many years in closing arguments.

Prior to the verdict, Griner apologized to the court docket and asked for leniency in an emotional speech.

“I hardly ever meant to hurt any individual, I hardly ever intended to set in jeopardy the Russian inhabitants, I never intended to split any regulations in this article,” Griner explained in the Khimki metropolis courthouse. “I created an sincere blunder and I hope that in your ruling that it does not finish my everyday living in this article. I know most people retains chatting about political pawn and politics, but I hope that that is significantly from this courtroom.

“I want to say all over again that I experienced no intent on breaking any Russian laws. I had no intent. I did not conspire or strategy to commit this criminal offense,” she included.

The verdict arrives about 6 months after the 31-calendar year-old was arrested at a Moscow airport and accused by Russian prosecutors of striving to smuggle significantly less than 1 gram of cannabis oil in her luggage. The two-time US Olympic basketball gold medalist pleaded responsible to drug expenses previous month in what her lawyers say was an endeavor to choose responsibility and obtain a lenient sentence.

The US State Office maintains Griner is wrongfully detained. Her supporters have named for her launch and requested the US to take further more actions to attempt to totally free her from the place, probably as aspect of a proposed prisoner swap.

In closing arguments Thursday, defense lawyer Maria Blagovolina, a companion at Rybalkin, Gortsunyan, Dyakin and Partners regulation firm, argued that Griner hardly ever utilised cannabis in Russia and that she in no way experienced the intention of performing so. She had no need to have to bring the vape cartridges to Russia, the lawyer extra.

All this confirms the full absence of intent in her actions, Blagovolina argued. Even if Griner ever employed medical marijuana, it was only at house back again in Arizona, exceptional and only with a doctor’s prescription, she added. She could not have known how strict the regulations have been in Russia, Blagovolina reported.

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Griner arrived at courtroom in handcuffs Thursday and was escorted by Russian officers into the defendant’s cage. When uncuffed, she spoke with her legal group and then held up a photograph of the UMMC Ekaterinburg basketball group, the Russian squad she played for all through the WNBA offseason.

Another of Griner’s lawyers, Alexander Boykov, argued Griner had no prospect to properly analyze the court paperwork. He reported that the Russian structure ensures everyone the ideal to use their native language and the free choice of the language of conversation.

Boykov cited an instance when a language interpreter delivered to Griner flipped via a lengthy doc made available by an investigator for translation and then informed Griner, “Basically, it indicates that you are guilty.”

Demand d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Russia, Elizabeth Rood, arrived at the courtroom Thursday forward of the listening to. She has appeared in court in the course of the demo and on Tuesday explained the US would “continue to guidance Miss out on Griner via each step of this process and as very long as it requires to convey her residence to the United States properly.”

How the trial has long gone

Griner’s attorneys laid out some arguments undermining the prosecution’s situation and professing the basketball player’s detention was not taken care of the right way following she was stopped February 17 by personnel at the Sheremetyevo Worldwide Airport.

Her detention, lookup and arrest have been “improper,” Boykov mentioned past 7 days, noting far more particulars would be discovered through closing arguments.

Immediately after she was stopped in the airport, Griner was built to indicator documents that she did not completely realize, she testified. At first, she reported, she was employing Google translate on her telephone but was afterwards moved to yet another area exactly where her cellphone was taken and she was made to sign more paperwork.

No lawyer was current, Griner testified, and her rights have been not defined to her. Individuals legal rights would involve entry to an lawyer the moment she was detained and the proper to know what she was suspected of. Under Russian law, she should have been knowledgeable of her legal rights in just 3 several hours of her arrest.

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On Tuesday, at the seventh listening to in her scenario, a defense expert testified that the examination of the substance contained in Griner’s vape cartridges did not comply with Russian legislation. Blagovolina also explained to VFAB her team’s gurus discovered “a couple of defects” in the equipment applied to measure the compound.

At demo, Griner has testified she has a doctor’s prescription for health care hashish and had no intention of bringing the drug into Russia. Adhering to her detention in February, she was examined for medicines and was thoroughly clean, her lawyers previously explained.

In her testimony, Griner “explained to the courtroom that she is aware and respects Russian regulations and never ever intended to break them,” Blagovolina reported just after final week’s hearing.

“We proceed to insist that, by indiscretion, in a hurry, she packed her suitcase and did not fork out consideration to the truth that substances allowed for use in the United States ended up in this suitcase and arrived in the Russian Federation,” Boykov, of Moscow Lawful Middle, has stated.

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

Very last 7 days, VFAB documented that President Joe Biden’s administration proposed a prisoner swap with Russia, giving to launch a convicted Russian arms trafficker, Viktor Bout, in exchange for Griner and a different American detainee, Paul Whelan. Russian officials countered the US provide, multiple sources common with the conversations have stated, but US officials did not take the ask for as a legitimate counteroffer.

The Kremlin also warned Tuesday that US “megaphone diplomacy” will not help negotiations for a prisoner exchange involving Griner. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Moscow thinks these talks should really be “discrete.”

Griner’s family members, supporters and WNBA teammates have ongoing to specific messages of solidarity and hope as they hold out for the summary of the demo. Her WNBA staff, the Phoenix Mercury, is predicted to play the Connecticut Sunlight on Thursday night time at 7 p.m. ET.

Ahead of demo proceedings last week, the WNBA players union tweeted, “Dear BG … It’s early in Moscow. Our day is ending and yours is just beginning. Not a working day, not an hour goes by that you are not on our minds & in our hearts.”

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