Judgment and Judgment on Britney Grenier: Live Updates

On Thursday, a Russian court convicted American basketball star Britney Grenier of trying to smuggle illegal drugs into Russia and sentenced her to nine years in prison. years in a penal colony, according to her attorney. The ruling ended a closely watched trial that its supporters say made it a pawn in a tense geopolitical showdown over the war in Ukraine.

The verdict, predetermined in a legal system that rarely acquits defendants, leaves Ms. Greiner’s fate subject to diplomatic bargaining between Russia and the United States. The two countries are discussing the possibility of a prisoner exchange that would bring Ms Greiner home from Russia, where she has been held since her travels. mid February.

Moscow officials said the verdict at her trial was a necessary precondition for a potential exchange for Ms Greiner, the Olympic athlete who is one of the biggest stars of her generation. The United States said it was mistakenly detained and held by Russia as a bargaining chip amid a row with the West over Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Secretary of State Anthony J. Blinken on the issue with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, last week, in their first phone call since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but no breaches were reported.

The judge also issued a fine of one million rubles to Ms. Greiner, about $16,300.

Ms. Greiner’s defense team was trying to get the judge to be lenient, saying she had mistakenly brought cannabis to Russia when she got there to compete with a team there during her off-season NBA season, and she had no intention of doing so. breach of Russian law.

They repeated that request on Thursday, asking the court to consider Ms Grenier’s character and the role she played in the development of Russian basketball. “There should be a more moderate penalty,” said Maria Blagovolina, who represents Ms Greiner.

In comments to the court, Ms. Greiner spoke of growing up in Houston and the values ​​her parents instilled in it, including “taking responsibility for your responsibilities”.

“That is why I pleaded guilty to the charges against me; I understand everything that was said against me in the charges against me, but I had no intention of violating Russian law,” she said. “I want the court to understand that it was an outright mistake I made in rushing and in pressing while trying to recover after Covid and trying to get back into my team.”

It is known that Russian courts issue stricter sentences to prominent foreigners. In 2020, a Russian court sentenced Trevor R. Reed, a former US Marine, was sentenced to nine years in prison, the harshest sentence for the type of crime he was convicted of. Later, Mr. Reed was exchanged for a Russian pilot who was convicted in the United States.

The Biden administration has come under pressure from Ms. Grenier’s wife and her supporters to negotiate her release.

Last week, Mr. Blinken said the US government “has put a substantive proposal on the table” to the Russian side about Ms Grenier and the other Americans detained by Russia. He declined to discuss the details, but a person familiar with discussions about the exchange said the United States had offered to swap a convicted arms dealer, Victor Bout, for Mrs. Greiner and another American imprisoned in Russia, Paul N. Whelan.

Russian officials insisted that the diplomatic row over Ms. Grenier should remain behind closed doors. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry S. Peskov said Tuesday that negotiations on a possible prisoner exchange “should be kept secret.”

“Megaphone diplomacy and a general exchange of views will not lead to a result,” he said.

Ms Greiner, star of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, arrived at Moscow airport on February 17, en route to Yekaterinburg, Russia, where she had been playing for a local team during the downturn. Customs officials checked her luggage, where they found two vape cartridges containing less than one gram of cannabis oil.

News of her arrest was not announced until after Russia invaded Ukraine a week later. Ms Greiner, 31, is accused of trying to smuggle a large amount of illegal drugs into Russia.

During one of the initial hearings in her case, Ms Greiner pleaded guilty to the charge, but insisted that she had no intention of breaking Russian law and that the illegal substance was in her baggage as a result of error while packing. quickly.

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