According to CNN, during Thursday’s closing arguments, Russian prosecutors asked for the eight-time All-Star to receive a nine and a half year sentence. The basketball star “publicly apologized for embarrassing her Yekaterinburg teammates…her family, her wife and the WNBA,” per ESPN.
Griner has been wrongfully detained in Russia since Feb. 17, when police say they found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage. Since acquittals are rare in Russian criminal trials and any possible deal for her release would need to include an admission of guilt, the Phoenix Mercury center pleaded guilty on the second day of her trial.
Though she’s up against very difficult odds, the two-time Olympic gold medalist’s defense team has argued that she wasn’t trying to break the law and the cartridges ended up in her bags by mistake. They’ve also presented evidence that Brittney uses medical marijuana to deal with pain caused by all the injuries she’s sustained in her basketball career.
“She’s still focused, and she’s still nervous. And she still knows that the end is near, and of course she heard the news so she’s hoping that sometime she could be coming home, and we hope, too,” Griner’s lawyer Maria Blagovolina told CNN Tuesday.
The already strained relationship between the U.S. and Russia was made even more tense when news that the United States made a “substantial offer” weeks ago became public.
The deal reportedly involves exchanging Griner and Paul Whelan, an American being held on alleged espionage charges, for convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout. Secretary of State Antony Blinken had a phone call with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, where he encouraged him to “accept [the] deal.”
This is the highest known contact between the countries since Russia invaded Ukraine, which coincidentally happened just after Griner was detained.
As these two superpowers continue their back and forth posturing and tough talk, Brittney Griner, a high profile queer Black woman, is still imprisoned and being used as a political pawn in a country that has anti-LGBTQ+ laws. I sincerely hope a deal can be made without sacrificing anymore of her dignity and humanity.