Brittney Griner: Closing Arguments Expected in WNBA Star Trial in Russian Drug Smuggling Trial

A court hearing in Khimki City Court comes six months after Griner, 31, was arrested at a Moscow airport and charged by Russian prosecutors with attempted smuggling less than 1 gram or cannabis oil in her luggage. She faces up to 10 years in prison.
Two-time U.S. Olympic basketball champion, playing in the WNBA off-season for the Russian team. pleaded guilty to drug charges last month in what her lawyers said was an attempt to take responsibility and get leniency if she were eventually convicted and sentenced.
“Given the nature of her case, the small amount of substance and personality (Greiner) and the history of positive contributions to world and Russian sports, the defense hopes that the application will be considered by the court as a mitigating circumstance and will not be without a harsh sentence,” her legal team said last month.

The defense also tried to undermine the prosecution case. On Tuesday, at the seventh hearing in her case, a defense expert testified that the examination of the substance contained in Griner’s vape cartridges did not comply with Russian law.

Defense Expert Says Examination of Substance in Britney Griner's Vape Cartridges Violated Russian Law

“The examination does not comply with the law in terms of the completeness of the study and does not comply with the norms of the Code of Criminal Procedure,” said forensic chemist Dmitry Gladyshev during an approximately two-hour meeting.

Maria Blagovolina, a partner at the Rybalkin, Gortsunyan, Dyakin & Partners law firm and a member of Griner’s defense team, told CNN that her team’s experts identified “several defects” in the machines used to measure the substance.

At the trial, Griner testified that she had a doctor’s prescription for medical marijuana and had no intention of bringing the drug into Russia. After her arrest in February, she was tested for drugs and found to be clean, according to her lawyers.

The US State Department alleges that Griner is wrongfully detained and her supporters are calling for her release and are asking the US to take further steps to try to get her released from the country, possibly as part of a proposed prisoner exchange.

“She is still focused and she is still nervous. And she still knows that the end is near, and of course she heard the news, so she hopes that someday she can return home, and we hope too, ”Blagovolina said on Tuesday. She added that the verdict in the case would be handed down “very soon”, possibly on Thursday.

How was the trial

In court on Tuesday, Griner sat in the defendant’s cage in the courtroom. Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Elizabeth Rude, attended the hearing and subsequently stated that the U.S. “will continue to support Ms. Greener at every stage of this process and until she returns home to the United States.” safely”.

Griner’s lawyers have already laid out some of the arguments that the basketball player’s detention was mishandled after she was stopped by Sheremetyevo International Airport on February 17.

Her detention, search and arrest were “illegal,” one of her lawyers, Aleksandr Boikov, said last week, noting that more details would be revealed during the final debate.

After being stopped at the airport, Griner forced to sign documents that she did not quite understand, she testified. At first, she said, she used Google Translate on her phone, but later she was taken to another room, where her phone was taken away and she was forced to sign several more documents.

There was no lawyer, Griner said, and she was not explained her rights. These rights will include access to a lawyer after she is detained and the right to know what she is suspected of. Under Russian law, she had to be informed of her rights within three hours of her arrest.

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In her testimony, Griner “explained to the court that she knew and respected Russian laws and never intended to break them,” Blagovolina said after a hearing last week.

“We continue to insist that, through negligence, in a hurry, she packed her suitcase and did not pay attention to the fact that substances approved for use in the United States ended up in this suitcase and arrived in the Russian Federation,” Boikov said. This is reported by the Moscow Legal Center.

The trial took place against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the country’s saber-rattling with the United States and Europe.

CNN reported last week that the administration of President Joe Biden proposed a prisoner exchange with Russiaoffering to release convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for Griner and another detained American, Paul Whelan. Russian officials rejected the US offerseveral sources familiar with the discussions said, but U.S. officials did not accept the request as a legitimate counteroffer.

The Kremlin also warned on Tuesday that US “megaphone diplomacy” would not help negotiations on a prisoner exchange involving Griner. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow believes these talks should be “cautious”.

The Griner family, WNBA supporters and teammates continued to show solidarity and hope as they awaited the conclusion of the lawsuit. Her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury, is expected to play the Connecticut Sun on Thursday night at 7:00 pm ET.

Ahead of last week’s trial, the WNBA Players’ Union tweeted“Dear BG… It’s early in Moscow. Our day is ending, but yours is just beginning. Not a day or an hour goes by without you in our thoughts and in our hearts.”

CNN’s Elizabeth Wolf, Travis Caldwell, Dakin Andone, Kylie Atwood, Evan Perez, Jennifer Hansler, Natasha Bertrand, Frederick Pleitgen, Chris Liakos, and Zahra Ulla contributed to this report.