Griner apologizes as Russian court prepares to give verdict


KHIMKI, Russia (AP) — An emotional Brittney Griner apologized in a Russian courtroom Thursday as her drug ownership trial drew to a detailed, and a prosecutor suggested that the American basketball megastar be convicted and sentenced to 9 1/2 years in jail in a case that reached the very best ranges of U.S.-Russian international relations.

With a pass judgement on set to factor an strangely swift verdict later within the day and a conviction all however positive, Griner made a last attraction to the courtroom. She mentioned she had no purpose to damage the legislation via bringing vape cartridges with hashish oil when she flew to Moscow in February to play basketball within the town of Yekaterinburg.

“I wish to express regret to my teammates, my membership, my fanatics and the town of (Yekaterinburg) for my mistake that I made and the embarrassment that I introduced on them,” Griner mentioned, her voice cracking. “I wish to additionally express regret to my folks, my siblings, the Phoenix Mercury group again at house, the fantastic ladies of the WNBA, and my superb partner again at house.”

Under Russian legislation, the 31-year-old Griner faces as much as 10 years in jail, however judges have substantial latitude on sentencing.

If she does no longer pass loose, consideration will flip to the potential for a high-stakes prisoner switch that was once proposed final week via U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to his Russian counterpart.

Griner mentioned she made “a decent mistake” in bringing the vape cartridges into Russia, including: “I am hoping to your ruling it does no longer finish my existence.”

Griner mentioned Yekaterinburg, a town east of the Ural Mountains, had grow to be her “2nd house.”

“I had no concept that the staff, the towns, the fanatics, my teammates would make this type of nice affect on me over the 6 1/2 years that I spent right here,” she mentioned. “I keep in mind vividly popping out of the gymnasium and the entire little women that have been within the stands there ready on me, and that’s what saved making me come again right here.”

Prosecutor Nikolai Vlasenko insisted that Griner packed the hashish oil intentionally, and he requested the courtroom handy Briner a fantastic of one million rubles (about $16,700) along with the jail sentence.

Lawyers for the Phoenix Mercury heart and two-time Olympic gold medalist have sought to reinforce Griner’s competition that she had no legal intent and that the canisters ended up in her baggage via mistake. They offered persona witnesses from the Yekaterinburg staff that she performs for within the WNBA offseason and written testimony from a physician who mentioned he prescribed her hashish for ache remedy from accidents sustained in her basketball profession.

Her legal professional, Maria Blagovolina, argued that Griner used the hashish handiest in Arizona, the place clinical marijuana is criminal.

She emphasised that Griner was once packing in haste after a grueling flight and affected by the results of COVID-19. Blagovolina additionally identified that the research of hashish present in Griner’s ownership was once mistaken and violated criminal procedures.

Blagovolina requested the courtroom to acquit Griner, noting that she had no previous legal document and hailing her position in “the improvement of Russian basketball.”

Another protection lawyer, Alexander Boykov, emphasised Griner’s position in taking her Yekaterinburg staff to win a couple of championships, noting that she was once liked and admired via her teammates. He informed the pass judgement on {that a} conviction would undermine Russia’s efforts to expand nationwide sports activities and make Moscow’s name to depoliticize sports activities sound shallow.

Boykov added that even after her arrest, Griner received the sympathy of each her guards and jail inmates, who supported her via shouting, “Brittney, the entirety shall be OK!” when she went on walks on the prison.

Before her trial started in July, the State Department designated her as “wrongfully detained,” shifting her case beneath the supervision of its particular presidential envoy for hostage affairs, successfully the federal government’s leader hostage negotiator.

Then final week, in an unusual transfer, Blinken spoke to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, urging him to simply accept a deal beneath which Griner and Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned in Russia on an espionage conviction, would pass loose.

The Lavrov-Blinken name marked the highest-level recognized touch between Washington and Moscow since Russia despatched troops into Ukraine greater than 5 months in the past. The direct outreach over Griner is at odds with U.S. efforts to isolate the Kremlin.

People aware of the proposal say it envisions buying and selling Griner and Whelan for the infamous palms dealer Viktor Bout, who’s serving a jail sentence within the United States. It underlines the general public force that the White House has confronted to get Griner launched.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre mentioned Monday that Russia has made a “unhealthy religion” reaction to the U.S. govt’s be offering, a counteroffer that American officers don’t regard as critical. She declined to elaborate.

Russian officers have scoffed at U.S. statements in regards to the case, announcing they display a disrespect for Russian legislation. They remained poker-faced, urging Washington to talk about the problem thru “quiet international relations with out releases of speculative data.”

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