Photo courtesy of Lorie Shaull via Wikimedia Commons
WNBA star Brittney Griner was found guilty of drug charges in Moscow court on Thursday after a month-long trial and over five months of detainment.
The 31-year-old Olympian and WNBA champion was detained at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Khimki when she was found carrying cannabis vape cartridges on Feb 17.
The Moscow judge found criminal intent in Griner’s actions and said that she is guilty of illegally smuggling and storing drugs, ABC News reported.
Griner pleaded guilty last month to the charges, which can lead to a maximum sentence of 10 years. The prosecutors asked for a sentence of 9 years and 6 months after the closing arguments.
As the trial ends, the potential for a prisoner swap between the U.S. and Russia is gaining attention, NBC News reports. The possible swap might be able to free her and another American in a Russian Jail, Pail Whelan, in exchange for convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
The basketball star apologized and said that she did not intend to break any Russian law, NBC News reports.
"I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling that it doesn't end my life here," Griner said, asking for leniency from the court.
Griner’s defense team said that the basketball player had a medical marijuana card in Arizona for her injuries and was prescribed medical marijuana by U.S. doctors previously to treat pain during the offseason, according to . Her defense attorneys also mentioned that she had never failed a drug test.
"What does this show?" said defense counsel Maria Blagovolina, according to NPR. "It shows that Brittney Griner used marijuana only at home and only in very small doses and that she had no intention to bring the substance into Russia."
Griner’s legal team told ABC News that the basketball star pleaded guilty as the Russian attorneys recommended them.
"Brittney sets an example of being brave. She decided to take full responsibility for her actions as she knows that she is a role model for many people," the lawyers said in the statement to ABC News. "Considering the nature of her case, the insignificant amount of the substance and BG's personality and history of positive contributions to global and Russian sport, the defense hopes that the plea will be considered by the court as a mitigating factor and there will be no severe sentence."
Griner’s defense lawyers also mentioned in court that Griner did not have a proper interpreter and translation access during her arrest.
The 31-year-old WNBA player was detained a week before Russia invaded Ukraine, and her detainment was not publicly announced after the invasion. According to NPR, this led to speculation that her arrest was something the Russian government was using against the U.S.
The WNBA star had flown to Russia in February to play during her offseason.
Edited by: Whitney Edna Ibe
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