Russian prosecutors seek 9.5-year sentence for US basketball star Griner

Griner has acknowledged having vape cartridges with cannabis oil in her luggage, judges have considerable latitude on sentencing.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that Russia has made a “bad faith” response to the US government’s offer, a counteroffer that American officials don’t regard as serious. (Reuters)

Russian prosecutors have asked a court outside Moscow to sentence American basketball star Brittney Griner to 9.5-year in prison as closing arguments in her cannabis possession trial were made.

The trial is nearing its end nearly six months after Griner’s arrest at a Moscow airport and subsequent detention, a case that has reached the highest levels of US-Russia diplomacy. She faces up to 10 years in prison, if convicted

Although a conviction appears almost certain, given that Russian courts rarely acquit defendants and Griner has acknowledged having vape cartridges with cannabis oil in her luggage, judges have considerable latitude on sentencing.

Lawyers for the Phoenix Mercury center and two-time Olympic gold medalist have pursued strategies to bolster Griner’s contention that she had no criminal intent and that the canisters ended up in her luggage due to hasty packing. They have presented character witnesses from the Russian team that she plays for in the WNBA off-season and written testimony from a doctor who said he prescribed her cannabis for pain treatment.

A lawyer on Griner’s defence team, Maria Blagovolina, argued that Griner brought the cartridges with her to Russia inadvertently and only used cannabis as medicine and only while in Arizona, where medical marijuana is legal. A prosecutor, Nikolai Vlasenko, argued that Griner packed the cannabis oil deliberately.

It’s not clear when the verdict will be announced. If she does not go free, attention will turn to the high-stakes possibility of a prisoner swap.

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About Cholo Brooks 17472 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.

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