Brittney Griner: What you need to know WNBA star Brittney Griner was detained in Russia in February. (NCD)
Brittney Griner’s Russian trial on cannabis possession charges is entering one of its last phases.
Thursday marked the beginning of closing arguments, six months since the WNBA star center was arrested, accused of carrying vape cartridges that held cannabis oil, The Associated Press reported.
Cannabis is illegal in Russia, The New York Times reported. She faces up to 10 years in prison.
Update 11:01 a.m. EDT Aug. 4: Griner has been found guilty of a single count of drug smuggling with criminal intent, CNN reported.
She had less than one gram of cannabis oil in her luggage when she was arrested at a Moscow airport in February.
Update 10:59 a.m. EDT Aug. 4: Griner has returned to the courtroom for the verdict announcement, CNN reported.
Update 9:53 a.m. EDT Aug. 4: Griner apologized in court Thursday morning at the close of her trial, the AP reported.
“I want to apologize to my teammates, my club, my fans and the city of (Yekaterinburg) for my mistake that I made and the embarrassment that I brought on them,” Griner said, according to the AP. “I want to also apologize to my parents, my siblings, the Phoenix Mercury organization back at home, the amazing women of the WNBA, and my amazing spouse back at home.”
Original report: Griner has pleaded guilty to the charges. But according to the AP, Russian judges have latitude when it comes to handing down a sentence.
During the proceedings, prosecutors asked the court to sentence Griner to 9 1/2 years in prison.
Griner’s attorneys have put up a defense that she did not intend to bring the canisters to Russia but that the cartridges were mistakenly packed. They also presented written testimony from a doctor who prescribed cannabis as a treatment for the basketball player’s pain, the AP reported.
The U.S. State Department said it considered Griner “wrongfully detained” and pledged to push for her release, according to the Times.
If Griner is sentenced to prison, the U.S. and Russian governments may hammer out a prisoner swap.
Last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to his counterpart Sergey Lavrov, pushing for a deal where Griner and another American who is jailed in Russia for espionage, Paul Whelan, could be released in exchange for arms trader Viktor Bout, the AP reported.
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