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Brittney Griner offers emotional apology to Russian court as it expedites verdict

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WNBA star Brittney Griner offered an emotional apology to a Russian court as her drug possession trial ended on Thursday, August 4. She could be sentenced to nearly ten years in prison if convicted, but judges do have considerable sway in this phase.

In February 2022, Griner was detained at a Moscow airport for bringing vape cartridges containing CBD oil into the country. She had been prescribed cannabis for pain, medical marijuana being legal in Arizona. However, the substance is illegal in Russia. Griner’s lawyer, Maria Blagovolina, argued that the cartridges were packed by mistake and there was no criminal intent.

She stated Griner packed “hastily” after returning from another flight and was suffering from COVID-19. Blagovolina also claims that the analysis of the substance found in Griner’s luggage violated legal protocols. She has asked the court to acquit Griner due to her having no past criminal record and the impact the Olympic gold medalist has had on her sport.

Griner was in Russia to play basketball in Yekaterinburg, a city she calls her “second home.”  She said she keeps returning to the city because the young fans waiting for her in the stands have made a “great impression on her.”

With the judge set to make a swift ruling later in the day, Brittney Griner made her final appeal as she apologized for her error and affirmed to the court that she had no intention of violating the law. She also apologized to her teammates, fans, the city of Yekaterinburg, the WNBA, her family, and her “amazing” spouse. In a cracked voice, Griner expressed her hopes that the ruling does not “end my life.”

With the US State Department deeming Griner as being “wrongfully imprisoned” by Russia, the case has prompted activity by the highest levels of the American government. Currently, an offer has been made to secure the release of Griner and Paul Whelan, another detainee, in exchange for that of notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

While this does imply that the United States is making serious attempts to bring these citizens home, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated on Monday, August 1, that Russian officials have responded to the offer in “bad faith.” While Moscow has presented a counteroffer, Jean-Pierre only commented that it was not being taken seriously.

Any additional negotiations over Griner’s release will likely be based on the sentence she receives from the Russian court.

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