Britney Greiner: Verdict expected today in WNBA star drug trafficking trial in Russia

Closing arguments in the trial began on Thursday amid fears it could be used as a political tool in the country’s war on Ukraine.

Greiner arrived at court handcuffed and escorted by Russian officers to the defendant’s cage. Once she wasn’t tied down, she spoke with her legal team and then uploaded a photo of the UMMC Ekaterinburg basketball team, the Russian team she played with during the WNBA offseason.

The court hearing in Khimki City Court comes six months after Grenier, 31, was arrested at Moscow airport and charged by Russian prosecutors with attempted smuggling. less than 1 gram of hemp oil in her bags. She faces up to 10 years in prison.
Two-time US Olympic basketball gold medalist Admission of guilt She was charged with drug charges last month in what her lawyers say is an attempt to take responsibility and get leniency if she is convicted and eventually sentenced.
“Given the nature of her case, the minimal amount of substance and character (Griner) and history of positive contributions to world and Russian sport, the defense hopes that the Court will consider the petition as a mitigating factor and there will be no harsh punishment,” Her legal team said last month.

The defense also attempted to undermine the prosecution’s case. On Tuesday, at the seventh hearing of her case, a defense expert testified that an examination of the substance in Griner’s electronic cartridges did not comply with Russian law.

“The examination does not comply with the law in terms of the completeness of the study and does not comply with the rules of the Code of Criminal Procedure,” forensic chemist Dmitry Gladyshev testified during the session, which lasted about two hours.

Griner’s attorney, Maria Blagovolina, of Rybalkin, Gortsunyan, Dyakin & Partners, Griner’s attorney, told CNN that her team’s experts have identified “some flaws” in the machines used to measure the material.

A defense expert said examining the substance in Brittney Griner's VAP cartridges violated Russian law

At the trial, Greiner testified that she had a prescription for medical cannabis and had no intention of bringing the drug to Russia. After she was detained in February, she was checked for drugs and was clean, her lawyers had previously said.

The US State Department asserts that Greiner is being unjustly held, and her supporters have called for her release and asked the US to take further steps to try to free her from the country, perhaps Part of the proposed prisoner exchange.

“She’s still focused, she’s still nervous. She still knows the end is near, and of course she’s heard the news, so she’s hoping to come home sometime, and hopefully too,” Blagovolina said on Tuesday. She added that the verdict in the case will be issued “very soon”, possibly Thursday.

Elizabeth Rudd, charge d’affaires of the US Embassy in Russia, arrived in court on Thursday ahead of the hearing. She appeared in court throughout the trial and said Tuesday that the United States will “continue to support Ms. Greiner in every step of this process and as long as it takes to bring her home to the United States safely.”

How did the trial go?

Griner’s lawyers have already made some arguments alleging that the basketball player’s detention was not handled properly after employees stopped her at Sheremetyevo International Airport on February 17.

One of her lawyers, Alexander Boykov, said last week that her arrest, search and arrest was “inappropriate”, noting that more details would be revealed during closing arguments.

After being stopped at the airport, Greiner to sign documents She testified that she did not fully understand it. She said that at first she was using Google Translate on her phone but was later moved to another room where her phone was moved and she was forced to sign more documents.

Greiner testified that there was no lawyer, and her rights were not explained to her. These rights include access to a lawyer once she is in custody and the right to know what is suspected. Under Russian law, she must have been informed of her rights within three hours of her arrest.

Exclusive to CNN: Biden administration offered convicted Russian arms dealer in exchange for Griner, Whelan

“She made it clear to the court that she knew and respected Russian laws and had no intention of violating them,” Blagovolina said in her testimony.

“We still insist that she, recklessly and quickly, packed her suitcase and did not pay attention to the fact that items permitted for use in the United States ended up in this suitcase and made it to the Russian Federation,” Boykov, of the Moscow Law Center, said.

The trial began against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Russia’s conflict with the United States and Europe.

Last week, CNN reported that the administration of President Joe Biden He proposed a prisoner exchange with Russiaand offered to release a convicted Russian arms smuggler, Victor Bout, in exchange for Greiner and another American detainee, Paul Whelan. Russian officials In the face of the American offerSeveral sources familiar with the discussions said, but US officials did not accept the request as a legitimate counteroffer.

The Kremlin also warned on Tuesday that US “megaphone diplomacy” would not help in prisoner exchange negotiations with Grenier. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow believed these talks should be “secret”.

The Griner family, supporters, and fellow WNBA members continued to express messages of solidarity and hope as they await the conclusion of the trial. Her WNBA team, Phoenix Mercury, is expected to play the Connecticut Sun game Thursday night at 7 p.m. ET.

Prior to last week’s trial proceedings, the WNBA Players Association chirp“Dear BG … It’s early in Moscow. Our day is ending and your day is just beginning. Not a day passes, not an hour does not occupy our mind and our hearts.”

Elizabeth Wolff, Travis Caldwell, Dakin Andoni, Kylie Atwood, Evan Perez, Jennifer Hansler, Natasha Bertrand, Frederic Blitgen, Chris Liakos, and Zohra God contributed to this report.

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