The trial of Brittney Griner reached its remaining stage on Thursday, with the American basketball star showing in a Russian courtroom for the beginning of closing arguments in a case that’s anticipated to finish with the conviction of Ms. Griner, who has been caught up within the deep disaster between Moscow and Washington over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The decision and sentencing are anticipated to be introduced on Thursday night in Moscow, based on Maria Blagovolina, a companion at Rybalkin Gortsunyan Dyakin and Companions regulation agency who’s representing Ms. Griner. Her protection workforce had beforehand mentioned it anticipated the case to complete by mid-August.
Ms. Griner has been in custody in Russia since Feb. 17, accused by the Russian authorities of getting a vape cartridge with cannabis oil in her baggage at an airport close to Moscow. The drug prices she faces carry as much as 10 years in jail underneath Russia’s felony code, and prosecutors in her case requested for a sentence of 9 and a half years. Additionally they requested for a high-quality of 1 million rubles, about $16,600.
Throughout one of many preliminary hearings in her case, Ms. Griner pleaded responsible to the cost however insisted that she had not supposed to interrupt Russian regulation. Underneath the Russian judicial course of, the trial proceeded, along with her legal professionals presenting proof aimed toward softening the eventual sentence.
In feedback to the courtroom on Thursday, Ms. Griner talked about her upbringing in Houston, the values her dad and mom instilled in her, together with “take possession to your obligations.”
“That’s why I pleaded responsible to my prices; I perceive all the pieces that has been mentioned towards me within the prices towards me, however I had no intent to interrupt Russian regulation,” she mentioned. “I would like the courtroom to grasp that it was an trustworthy mistake that I made whereas dashing and in stress attempting to get better post-Covid and simply attempting to get again to my workforce.”
A two-time Olympic gold medalist who performs for the Phoenix Mercury within the W.N.B.A., Ms. Griner has for years supplemented her revenue by taking part in in Russia throughout the low season. Her protection workforce has been attempting to influence the choose to be lenient. “I’d wish to ask the courtroom to acquit my consumer however, if the courtroom deems this unimaginable, I believe that the penalty ought to be handed down with due account of Griner’s character and the position she has performed within the improvement of Russian basketball,” Ms. Blagovolina instructed the courtroom on Thursday. “There ought to be a milder penalty.”
No matter her destiny within the Russian courtroom, Ms. Griner already has been the topic of diplomatic bargaining. Russia and america have been exchanging indicators that she and one other American held in Russia might be a part of a prisoner alternate involving a Russian arms seller imprisoned in america.
Russian officers have mentioned that no progress in these negotiations may be made earlier than the courtroom completes her trial.
The Biden administration has been underneath strain from Ms. Griner’s spouse and supporters to barter her freedom.
Final week, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken mentioned that the U.S. authorities had “put a considerable proposal on the desk” to the Russian aspect concerning Ms. Griner and different People held in Russian custody. Mr. Blinken then mentioned the matter together with his Russian counterpart, Sergey V. Lavrov, final week, of their first telephone name since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, however no breakthroughs had been reported.
Russian officers have insisted that the diplomatic wrangling over Ms. Griner ought to stay behind closed doorways. Dmitri S. Peskov, the Kremlin’s spokesman, mentioned on Tuesday that negotiations over a possible prisoner alternate “ought to be discreet.”
“Megaphone diplomacy and the general public alternate of opinions is not going to result in any consequence,” he mentioned.
Ms. Griner arrived in a Moscow airport on Feb. 17, on her option to the Russian metropolis Yekaterinburg close to the Ural Mountains, the place she had been taking part in for an area workforce throughout the W.N.B.A. low season. Customs officers checked her baggage, the place they discovered two vape cartridges containing lower than one gram of cannabis oil.
Information of her detention was made public solely after Russia invaded Ukraine every week later. Ms. Griner, 31, was charged with an try to smuggle a big quantity of banned narcotics into Russia.
She testified throughout the courtroom hearings that the unlawful substance had been in her baggage because of an oversight whereas packing in a rush. Her protection workforce famous that she was licensed to make use of medicinal hashish in Arizona to handle ache, which has develop into a typical observe amongst some American athletes.