After two days of crucial hearings, Brittney Griner’s legal team filed a letter to a Russian court on Friday. The letter demonstrated she had had medical permission to use cannabis for severe pain. The trial centered on the jailed American basketball player’s character and athletic career.
The WNBA star entered a guilty plea to narcotics charges last week. The Russian customs officers discovered vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage at the Moscow airport in February. Since then, Griner has been detained, putting the Biden administration in a difficult diplomatic position. Griner was on break from the Phoenix Mercury to play basketball in Russia.
According to the Associated Press, a guilty plea does not put an end to trial-like proceedings in Russia. In an additional hearing this week, her defense team presented evidence of her moral character, and her successful athletic career in both Russia and the U.S. They also presented her justification for possessing cannabis oil.
According to her attorney Maria Blagovolina, the document given to the court on Friday proved that Griner had received advice to use medical cannabis from an attending physician in Arizona. “The permission was issued on behalf of the Arizona Department of Health,” she added.
Testimonies by UMMC Ektaerinburg’s Team Captain and Director
Additionally, tests demonstrating that Griner complied with all anti-doping regulations were presented. She was playing for UMMC Ektaerinburg, a Russian team, whose director and team captain also spoke in her favor on Thursday. “Thank God, she feels OK and looks good,” said the Team’s Captain.
Maxim Ryabkov, UMMC Ektaerinburg’s Director, testified too. “Today, our task was to tell the court about her as an athlete and person, about her role and contribution to the success of the Ekaterinburg club and Russian women’s basketball on the whole,” he said.
U.S. Embassy Charge d’Affaires Elizabeth Rood
Outside the Moscow court, U.S. Embassy Charge d’Affaires Elizabeth Rood spoke to the media. She stated, “In the hearings yesterday and today, what became very clear is the tremendous amount of respect and admiration both in the United States and here in Russia where Miss Griner has been playing basketball for seven years, not only for her professional achievements but for her character and integrity”.
Griner Pleads Guilty
Griner acknowledged having the cartridges but said she had packed them by accident in a hurry and had no malicious intent. She could spend up to 10 years in prison. However, according to Russian media, authorities are negotiating a prisoner swap for Viktor Bout. The so-called Merchant of Death is currently serving a 25-year sentence in the United States. He is in jail for trying to sell heavy weapons to a terrorist organization.
President Biden has limited negotiating power because he opposed Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. The United States has received repeated warnings from Russian officials that applying pressure would be “futile.”
The proceedings are scheduled to conclude in August, and Griner’s next hearing is scheduled for July 26.