WNBA star Brittney Griner stands trial in Russia on drug cost

Griner, whose arrest got here lower than every week earlier than Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, performs for a Russian basketball crew in the course of the WNBA’s offseason.

The U.S. State Division stated in Could that Griner is being “wrongfully detained by the Russian authorities,” an official classification which means the particular presidential envoy for hostage affairs, working in coordination with the division, may be extra aggressive in its efforts to safe her launch.

Following a pretrial listening to on Monday, a State Division spokesperson stated it “will proceed to ​press for her launch.”

However specialists in Russian regulation say Griner’s finest choice to receive her launch could be by way of diplomatic channels fairly than the authorized system. Marijuana is against the law in Russia for leisure and medical functions, and fewer than 1% of all legal circumstances within the nation finish in acquittal, in keeping with Reuters.

Jail time in a penal colony is all however assured if Griner is convicted on prices of large-scale transportation of medicine, and she or he may very well be locked up between 5 and 10 years, stated William E. Butler, the creator of “Russian Regulation and Authorized Establishments” and a professor at Penn State Dickinson Regulation.

Russia’s legal code can permit a courtroom to impose a lower than the minimal sentence, Butler stated, however legal professionals should give a persuasive argument.

Most of the particulars surrounding Griner’s trial have been murky. Butler stated she would doubtless face a bench trial, versus a jury one, and he would count on a verdict to come back on the identical day the trial ends.

Butler stated these kinds of trials may final not more than a day, however “since we all know nothing of her facet of the story, one can’t be certain.” Griner would have the prospect to enchantment if she is discovered responsible.

Thomas Firestone, a former Justice Division official who labored as a lawyer in Moscow, stated he’s conscious of 1 latest case just like Griner’s that took about two-and-a-half months to conclude. An acquittal in Griner’s case, he added, could be “not possible.”

Firestone believes the trial will probably be watched intently by officers on the Kremlin. Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and WNBA championship winner with the Mercury, isn’t any odd American detainee, and former diplomats have prompt President Vladimir Putin could view her as a possible bargaining chip for a high-profile Russian nationwide detained in the US.

Specialists say amongst these Russia would need in a jail swap is Viktor Bout, a global arms seller dubbed the Service provider of Dying who was given a 25-year sentence in 2011 for conspiring to promote weapons to rebels in Colombia.

Former Protection Secretary Leon Panetta stated on “Meet the Press NOW” on Monday that Putin is withholding Griner as a part of a “technique of principally intimidation.”

However a Putin spokesman disputed the State Division’s place that Griner is a Russian hostage, telling NBC Information she isn’t any totally different from “tons of and tons of of Russian residents that have been sentenced for carrying cannabis.”

In the meantime, Griner’s supporters, together with her spouse and fellow WNBA gamers, proceed to rally round her throughout basketball video games and on social media with the hashtag #WeAreBG.

Spouse Cherelle Griner, in an interview Wednesday with the Rev. Al Sharpton, stated she has acquired letters from her partner wherein she stated she is “holding on,” however believes she’s nonetheless “struggling. She’s there terrified. She’s there alone.”

Cherelle Griner stated on Sharpton’s SiriusXM radio present, “Keepin’ It Actual,” that she hasn’t spoken to her spouse since Feb. 17. The couple was supposed to talk this month on the date of their fourth anniversary, however a logistical error with the American embassy reportedly failed to attach their name.

Cherelle Griner added that the trial in opposition to her spouse is already stacked in opposition to her.

“Nothing about that is justice,” she stated.

Chantal Da Silva contributed.