A Russian court on Tuesday denied WNBA star Brittney Griner’s appeal and upheld her nine-year prison sentence on drug charges. According to NBC News, Griner looked despondent in court:
“Griner, 32, looked despondent as she appeared at the hearing in the Moscow Regional Court via video conference from the detention center where she has been held since her arrest in February. The athlete is now expected to be moved to a penal colony.”
Griner said in court that she “did not intend to do this,” but understood the charges against her. She said she hoped the fact ‘she pled guilty’ would help her cause but it did not.
Giner said before her appeal through her lawyers Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, partners with Rybalkin, Gortsunyan, Dyakin and Partners.
Griner said: “Thank you everyone for fighting so hard to get me home. All the support and love are definitely helping me.” Her lawyers said:
“Today is of course a difficult day for Brittney. Not only is this her birthday in jail away from her family, teammates and friends, but she is very stressed in anticipation of the appeal hearing on October 25.”
The WNBA issued a statement that said:
“Happy Birthday Brittney Griner, we will not forget about you and we will not stop fighting for you. The W won’t be the same until you’re home #WeAreBG.”
According to CNN:
Griner’s appeal is being considered in the Moscow Regional Court, with an outcome expected Tuesday after her attorneys argued the verdict was unfair and unjustified under Russian law. They urged the court to acquit her, calling her sentence disproportionate and the previous court ruling wrong in saying Griner had criminal intent.
“No lawyer will be able to say in all honesty that this verdict is in line with Russian judicial practice,” defense attorney Alexander Boykov said.
Griner, 32, attended the hearing via video conference from her detention center – Correctional Colony No. 1 in Novoye Grishino, north of Moscow – speaking briefly to confirm her name, according to her legal team. It was not clear if she would make any more statements during the hearing, which began two hours later than scheduled at the request of her lawyers, who didn’t give a reason for the brief postponement.
The court hearing the appeal can choose to leave Griner’s verdict in place, overrule it and send it back to the lower court, or reduce Griner’s prison term, according to the lawyers, Boykov of the Moscow Legal Center and Maria Blagovolina, a partner at Rybalkin, Gortsunyan, Dyakin and Partners law firm.
Yury Ushakov who was Russia’s ambassador to the United States between 1998 and 2008 and is now an aide to Putin said:
“In this tense situation, I think that he is thinking first and foremost about the upcoming midterm elections so he keeps emphasizing the need to bring back home the basketball player who was detained for drug smuggling. However, it’s not the main issue that we are concerned about.”
Griner’s lawyer, Alexandr D. Boykov, who last spoke with Griner on October 11 said Griner is starting to lose hope for a quick solution. He said:
“She is not yet absolutely convinced that America will be able to take her home.
“She is very worried about what the price of that will be, and she is afraid that she will have to serve the whole sentence here in Russia.