Brittney Griner's Lawyers Appeal Her 9-Year Russian Prison Sentence

MOSCOW (AP) — Lawyers for American basketball star Brittney Griner filed an appeal Monday against her nine-year Russian prison sentence for drug possession, Russian news agencies reported Monday.

Griner, a center for the Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was sentenced Aug. 4. She was arrested in February at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after vaporizer bottles containing cannabis oil were found in her luggage.

Griner played for a women’s basketball team in Yekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason.

Lawyer Maria Blagovolina was quoted by Russian news agencies on Monday as saying the appeal was filed, but the reasons for the appeal were not immediately clear.

Blagovolina and deputy attorney Alexander Boykov said after the conviction that the sentence was excessive and that in similar cases defendants have received an average sentence of about five years, with about a third of them on probation.

Griner admitted that he had the cans in his luggage, but said he had inadvertently packed them in a hurry and had no criminal intent. His defense team submitted written statements that he had been prescribed cannabis to treat pain.

Prior to her conviction, the US State Department declared that Griner was “wrongfully detained.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken took the unusual step of revealing publicly in July that the US had made a “substantial proposal” to bring Griner home, along with Paul Whelan, an American serving a 16-year sentence. in Russia for espionage.

Blinken did not elaborate, but The Associated Press and other news organizations reported that Washington has offered to release Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer serving a 25-year sentence in the US.”

On Sunday, a senior Russian diplomat said exchange talks were taking place.

“This rather sensitive issue of the exchange of convicted Russian and American citizens is being discussed through the channels defined by our presidents,” Alexander Darchiev, head of the North American department at the Foreign Ministry, told the state news agency. Tass. “These individuals, in fact, are being discussed. The Russian side has long been seeking the release of Viktor Bout. The details should be left in the hands of professionals, based on the principle of ‘do no harm’”.

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