Brittney Griner was a WNBA All Star and two-time WNBA Defensive player of the Year. She was sentenced to nine-years in prison for drug-related charges in Russia. According to the Associated Press, Griner’s appeal date was set for Oct. 25. Griner could be sent into labor camp if the appeal fails.
An interview with CNN was conducted on Oct. 9. Former United Nations Ambassador Bill Richardson stated that he had been working with Russian officials through his private humanitarian foundation. He feels “cautiously hopeful” that Griner, and former U.S Marine Paul Whelan, could be freed before the end this year. Richardson cited his track record in bringing Americans home. A recent success story was U.S Marine Trevor Reed’s April release.
Griner is not as optimistic as Richardson. Alexandr D. Boykov, Griner’s lawyer, stated that Brittney Griner isn’t optimistic about the U.S. being able to release her soon in an Oct.12 Report.
Boykov stated to the Times that she isn’t yet certain that America will accept her home. She is worried about the cost of this and is afraid she will be sentenced to the full sentence in Russia.
Griner was taken into Russian custody after being detained at Sheremetyevo International Airport in February. There, she was found with vape cartridges containing marijuana concentrate hash oil in her luggage by the Russian Federal Customs Service.
Griner’s experience was anything but pleasant. Brittney Griner was subject to harsh conditions at the Russian penal colony, according to The New York Times.
Griner shares a small cell space with two English-speaking people who are also on drug charges. Griner, a 6-foot-9 woman, was initially expected to sleep in a bed too small. After journalist Ekaterina Kalugina visited Griner in April, she requested a larger bed.
Kalugina said that prisoners are allowed to shower only twice per week. Griner also told Kalugina that she suffers from frequent pain, particularly headaches. Boykov stated that the temperature inside the building can fluctuate based on weather conditions and that Brittney Griner spends only one hour per day outside to walk laps around “small courtyards.”
Cherelle Griner, Griner’s wife, said that BG had suffered far beyond her crime.
Brittney has spoken to Cherelle on the phone twice in February. Brittney was finally heard on the first call, which felt like a relief. However, she left the second call with negative feelings.
Cherelle stated that she cried for two to three days straight. “It was one of the most distressing phone calls I’ve ever received.”
Cherelle described the entire situation as if she were in a movie where her wife is the hostage.
“It’s my life, and I feel like, “Do we ever get her back?” Do I ever see my wife again? What happens? Gayle King spoke to Cherelle. I think the best word is “The fact everything’s so unique and everything’s, like., changeable.” It’s almost like I hear something new every day, which is kind of terrifying.
Griner has received a lot support from the basketball community throughout this entire experience. Griner’s WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury, and the WNBPA supported Griner in March. In June, the WNBA made Griner an honorary All-Star.
The United States government is working to bring Brittney Griner and Whelan home. Whelan is a corporate security chief and has been in prison for 16 years since 2020 on espionage convictions.
In September, President Joe Biden met Cherelle and Lindsay Colas, Griner’s agent. He also met with Whelan’s sister. Karine Jean-Pierre, White House Press Secretary, said that this does not mean Russia has ended negotiations. Biden was simply showing his support for the families.
Jean-Pierre stated that he wanted to let Brittney and Paul know that he was thinking of them and that his team is focused on this daily, and making sure they return home safe and sound.
Griner’s defense filed an appeal on Aug. 15 for her nine-year sentence. Griner could have been sentenced to a maximum of ten years but her defense team argued that her punishment was still excessive. According to the report by the Associated Press lawyers, Brittney Griner could have been charged with a maximum of 10 years but they argue that her punishment is still excessive.
Russian officials have confirmed that they are in negotiations with the U.S. government about a possible prisoner swap to bring Brittney Griner home. Russia confirmed that it wants Viktor Bout, a convicted arms dealer, to be part of the deal two days later.
Bout, also known by the “Merchant of Death”, was captured in Thailand in 2008. He was then extradited to America, where he is currently serving 25 years in prison.
According to the Russian state-owned news agency TASS, Alexander Datchiev, head, North America department, Russian Foreign Ministry said that “The discussions on a very sensitive topic are proceeding via channels chosen by our Presidents.” “Silent diplomacy continued and should bear fruit if Washington is careful not fall into propaganda.”
Griner’s lawyers claimed that the state-appointed forensic specialist who examined her bag for cartridges made some procedural and technical errors. CBS News reported another forensic expert, Dmitry Gladyshev was called by the defense team to testify.
Gladyshev stated that “The examination of the cartridges does not conform to the legislation regarding completeness of the study” and did not adhere with the norms of Code.
CNN reported that the United States offered to exchange Bout in a possible deal with Russia to free Brittney Griner and Whelan. The Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated publicly that the U.S. had made a “substantial offer” to exchange Bout, but didn’t confirm reports about Bout.
According CNN, Russia requested that the swap be extended to Vadim Krasikov, a convicted murderer. Russian officials had reportedly made the request in July but did so via an informal backchannel. The U.S. initially doubted the legitimacy of the request due to the method of communication. Krasikov was also not a simple request. He was convicted in Germany of murder last year, and is still in German custody.
CNN reports that a German government source confirmed the fact that U.S. officials made quiet inquiries to Germany. The U.S. seems to be still not convinced that Russia is cooperating.
Adrienne Watson, spokesperson for the National Security Council said that holding two Americans wrongfully held hostage in exchange for the release of a Russian assassin under third-country’s custody is not an acceptable counter-offer. It is a bad-faith attempt to avoid the Russia-Russia deal that should be made.
Blinken also held a press conference on July 29 and updated the public on his conversation with Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister. Blinken stated that he had urged him not to abandon the U.S. proposal they had made, but no further details were given.
Blinken stated that although he was not going to give a description of his response, and that it was impossible for him to make an assessment about whether things are more likely or less likely. However, it was important that he hear directly from me on this matter.
Brittney Griner was first to testify at her trial on July 27th. She recalled the day of her arrest, and stated that the interpreter didn’t provide a complete translation. She explained that she needed to use a translation app on the phone to communicate with customs officers. Brittney Griner said that she was not given any explanations about her rights or accessing lawyers, and that she was only instructed to sign documents.
Brittney Griner stated, per CBS News: “Nobody explained anything”
Griner’s testimony was made on the day that her defense team emphasized how cannabis can be used medicinally. They stressed that Brittney Griner did not intend to commit a crime and had accidentally packed it in her bag while she was packing. However, this explanation might not be accepted by Russian courts as Maria Zakharova , a spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, stated that legalizing cannabis in the U.S. does not affect Russian laws.
Brittney Griner was present for the third day in her trial, which began on July 14. She did not testify, even though she was supposed to. Brittney Griner was supported by two character witnesses. Maxim Rybakov (director of Griner’s Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg), was one of the witnesses, while Evgeniia Belinakova was the other.
Beliakova stated to the Associated Press that Brittney was always a great teammate. We miss her so much. “I was happy to have seen her and I hope that this trial ends soon with a positive result.”
Rybakov said Thursday that Brittney Griner was his first sight since February. He stated that she seemed to be feeling well.
Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to drug offenses in a Russian court on July 7, four months after she was detained. Griner claims she did not intend to break the law despite her plea.
“I would like to plead guilty, my honor. But it was not intended. Brittney Griner stated in English that he didn’t intend to violate the law. This was translated into Russian by Reuters . “I would like to testify later. I need to prepare.
“Traditionally, the best defense against a crime is to admit it and hope for a lighter sentence,” William Pomeranz (acting director of the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute in Washington) told ESPN . There are not many examples of people raising strong defenses, and being acquitted.
According to The New York Times , Griner’s guilty plea could lead to a prisoner exchange between Russia (and the United States) It remains to be seen if that will happen, but Griner’s next developments in Griner’s case will likely occur on July 14, when Brittney Griner returns to court.
Griner wrote a July 4 letter to the White House requesting her release directly to President Joe Biden. Brittney Griner said she was missing her family, friends, and colleagues, and that she had spent Fourth of July thinking about what freedom meant to her.
Brittney Griner wrote, “It hurts to think about how I normally celebrate this day because freedom is something completely different for me this year.”
Biden and Kamala Harris met with Griner’s widow two days later. The White House released a statement in which Biden expressed his support for the Griner family and said that his administration would “pursue all avenues” to bring Brittney Griner home to the United States.
Brittney Griner began her criminal trial on July 1, 130 days after she was detained. According to TASS Griner stated in court that she understood the charges, but refused to comment immediately. According to the Russian news agency RIA–Novosti, the prosecution questioned two witnesses on Day 1. One was an airport customs official, the other an unidentified witness. Only the former spoke in open court.
“I wouldn’t like to talk about the details of the case or on the charges, and to comment upon our position on them because it’s too early for that,” Boykov stated to reporters outside the court. Per ESPN.
Griner’s pretrial confinement was extended for six months earlier in the week. This is Griner’s fourth extension. According to TASS Griner was in pretrial detention from July 2. Griner’s detention was already extended twice by that time.
The Associated Press reported Brittney Griner had met with State Department officials a day before Griner’s third extension was announced. In a statement, Mercury star Diana Taurasi stated that they had reaffirmed their commitment to Griner’s return.
Taurasi stated that there is much involved in getting her home safe and sound. He added that they are working tirelessly. “We are here to help BG stay at the forefront of basketball, which is more important than any other thing going on in our daily lives. We want BG home as soon possible. It’s No. It’s No. 1 on our list.”
Throughout Griner’s detention, the WNBA supported Griner. Griner received hundreds of letters and emails from league players, according to a June 2 report by the AP. Griner’s email address has not been made public but the WNBA Players Union shared it with its members via text messages.
Russian officials inspect Griner’s emails and letters before Griner reads them. Griner must respond by writing on paper or dictation.
“She makes fun of herself in her letters. It’s hard to imagine how she manages it all with the circumstances she is going through. “She’s an incredible soul,” stated Amanda Zahui B., a Los Angeles Sparks forward. Zahui B. is one of many WNBA players to have communicated with Griner throughout Griner’s detainment. “She brings light to a situation such as this. It’s something I doubt many people can do.
Brittney Griner has been supported by the U.S. government who declared her “wrongfully held” and apparently enlisted the assistance of Bill Richardson, a former U.S. ambassador at the United Nations, who has many years of experience as a hostage negotiator. Griner’s designation means that the U.S. government is now able to immediately negotiate Griner’s return, rather than waiting for her trial in Russia.
“The Department of State has found that the Russian Federation has unlawfully detained U.S. citizen Brittney griner,” stated a spokesperson for State Department to ESPN . The Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Relations Roger Carstens will now lead the interagency team to secure Brittney Griner’s release.
A spokesperson for the State Department, Ned Price, said that a U.S. consular official met Griner on May 19. The officer stated that Griner was “continuing in doing as well as can be expected under these exceedingly difficult circumstances.” Price requested more access to Griner, as it was his second visit in less than a week.
“Our message was clear and simple — we continue to insist on Russia allowing consistent and timely consular acces to all U.S. citizen prisoners,” Price stated to ABC News. “One-off visits do not suffice. We will continue to demand that Moscow upholds its commitments under Vienna Convention for consistent, timely access.”
Cherelle Griner discussed the situation during a May 25 interview with “Good Morning America”. She stated that the couple have not spoken in over 100 days and that her wife’s cell phone was taken shortly after she was taken into custody by police. They have exchanged letters “sporadically” since then.
Cherelle Griner also asked to meet President Joe Biden during their interview.
“I keep hearing that he has power. She is a political pawn.” she stated. “So, if they are holding her to get you to do something, then I want to see you do it.”
Brittney Griner has more support than the U.S. government. In an interview with the NBA Draft Lottery commissioner Adam Silver, NBA commissioner stated he is working “side by side” to secure Griner’s release. Silver has been able to communicate with all levels of government through this process.
Silver stated that he was in contact with the White House, State Department, hostage negotiators, all levels of government, and the private sector. “Our No. Her safety and health are our top priorities. We want to make sure she leaves Russia.
Russian customs released video of Griner trying to get through airport screening on March 5. However, the service did not identify Griner by name. TASS confirmed Griner and Russian state TV published an undated photo of Griner at a police station that day. was reportedly taken into custody on February 17.
A report by TASS from March 17 states that a Moscow court extended Griner’s pretrial detention to May 19. According to Insider, Griner was also denied house arrest. Griner (6’9″) complained that the jail cells were too small for her. Griner shares a cell with two English-speaking prisoners. They are both being held for “drug related articles” and have not been convicted previously, according to NBC.
Brittney Griner appeared briefly in a Russian courtroom on May 13. She was reportedly informed that her pretrial detention had been extended to June 18. Griner’s lawyer Alexander Boykov told the AP the client would soon be tried. Griner had not complained about detention conditions, but it is unclear if the bed-size issue has been resolved.
Ekaterina Kalugina (a representative from Moscow’s Public Monitoring Commission, which oversees the treatment of prisoners), stated that the U.S. consul has yet to visit Griner on March 18. Kalugina claims this is despite Russian authorities stating they will “create all circumstances” for Griner to visit.
This was less than one week later. A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, Ned Price, told CNN that a U.S. Embassy official was allowed “consular access” on March 22 to Griner to allow them to assess her condition.
“Our official determined Brittney Griner in good health, and we will continue doing everything we can to ensure she is treated fairly during this ordeal,” Price stated.
After Griner was detained, the U.S. Embassy in Moscow repeatedly asked Griner to visit them but was “consistently denied” access. John Sullivan, U.S. The U.S. Ambassador to Russia told the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs that John Sullivan, the U.S.
On February 24, Russia launched a large-scale military strike against Ukraine. The U.S. and other nations issued severe sanctions on Russia. It is unclear if Russia’s detention ofBrittney Griner, who played for the Russian Premier League side team UMMC Ekaterinburg in the past few WNBA offseasons was a retaliatory action.
Regardless of Russia’s intentions, the U.S. government is reportedly planning to start a “drawn out battle” to bring Griner back to her homeland.
How did American politicians react immediately?
American politicians were somewhat hesitant to react to Griner’s situation due to privacy concerns. Three U.S. Congressmen from Griner’s native Texas supported Brittney Griner.
Colin Allred, a Texas congressman, is also a member the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He stated that he was working directly with the State Department in order to speed Griner’s return home to the U.S. Allred called the situation “extremely concerning.”
Allred, who was a former NFL defensive linebacker and played at Baylor in 2000, said that “every day for anyone being held is a life time,”. I know that this must be a difficult time for her family and friends. For her, the uncertainty surrounding what’s going on is likely to be just as terrible. We can move this quickly to get her out, no matter what happens.
Joaquin Castro, a Texas congressman, posted a tweet saying that he was “closely watching” Griner’s Russian detention in Russia and that he demanded she be “safely return.”
Castro stated that “This follows a pattern Russia wrongly detaining, imprisoning US citizens.” was written by Castro on March 5. The US citizens are not political pawns.
Castro’s remarks were very similar to Sheila Jackson Lee, a Texas congresswoman. Jackson Lee, speaking in front of a crowd called for Brittney Griner to be released and requested that the State Department prioritise her case.
Jackson Lee stated that “if there are challenges or concerns about her actions it should be dealt diplomatically and she should being released.”
Both White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Antony Blinken, Secretary of State, declined to comment directly on Griner’s situation after her detention became public. They cited privacy concerns. Psaki pointed out that federal privacy law requires that the U.S. government obtain written consent from anyone in detention to discuss their circumstances.
Blinken stated that his department was “doing all we can” in order to ensure that the rights of all Americans held in Russia are “upheld, respected.”
Blinken stated that “Whenever an American is held anywhere in the globe, we of course stand ready for every possible assistance, including in Russia,” on March 6.
According to John Garamendi, a California congressman, Griner will not be able to receive assistance. Garamendi, who is also a member of the U.S. House Committee on Armed Services said that securing Griner’s release will be difficult due to the “nonexistent diplomatic relationship” between the U.S. & Russia.
Garamendi stated to CNN that “our diplomatic relations with Russia are nonexistent right now.” “Perhaps she could be able to help during the various negotiations.” “I don’t know.”
Garamendi also mentioned Griner’s sexual orientation, she is a lesbian. This could make it more difficult because Russia has strict LGBT laws and rules.
Although it is not clear if Russia held Brittney Griner in order to provoke the U.S.A, the State Department advised Americans to leave Russia immediately to avoid harassment in an updated advisory dated March 5.
What was Brittney Griner role in Russia?
Griner is one 70 WNBA player — almost half of the league’s 144 roster slots — who will be competing internationally in the 2022 offseason. Brittney Griner was also one of the dozen-plus players who were playing in Russia and Ukraine. UMMC Ekaterinburg has five WNBA All-Stars, including Jonquel Jones, the reigning WNBA MVP, Breanna Stewart and Allie Quigley, on its current roster.
Griner and Co. may have different reasons for playing internationally but many do it for financial reasons. The minimum and maximum salaries for the WNBA are $60,471 (and $228,094), respectively. These numbers are much lower than what the NBA offers. The NBA has a minimum salary starting at $925,000, and maximum salaries that start at over $28 million.
Cherelle Griner claims Brittney Griner is a WNBA player who plays overseas due to the WNBA’s high pay. Griner reportedly makes $1 million per season to play at UMMC Ekaterinburg.
Cherelle Griner stated that BG would love to stay home and not travel overseas on May 25. “She has had only one Thanksgiving in the States since she was pro, and that is all she really misses. Because she doesn’t have enough money to support her family in the WNBA.
Due to the WNBA’s low salaries, Diana Taurasi, a former league MVP and Griner’s Mercury teammate, accepted a contract from UMMC Ekaterinburg worth $1.5 million in 2015. This would have her out of the 2015 WNBA season.
In an open letter to supporters, Taurasi stated that “the year-round nature in women’s basketball takes it toll” and that he would not turn down the financial opportunity to travel to Russia with his team. They offered me to rest, and I accepted. When I’m done playing, I want to be able take care of my family and myself.
WNBPA and the WNBA agreed to a new, eight-year CBA in 2020. This would increase the average salary to $130,000. It was the first time the average salary has been above six figures. The WNBA’s highest salary was $117,000.