WNBA star Brittney Griner was hauled into a Russian court again on July 26 for her fourth appearance on a cannabis possession charge. Griner's defense made it clear her use is strictly medical, as approved by Arizona where she lives and plays for Phoenix Mercury.
Each time Griner has a court date she sports a statement t-shirt. This time, she wore a blue hoodie with an insignia that reads BLACK LIVES ARE LOVED. It appeared to be a takeoff on a Cross Colours design (see below). She's previously shown up with Nirvana, Jimi Hendrix and Crenshaw shirts.
Griner shockingly stands in a cage or cell in court. In the U.S., such treatment is not acceptable.
According to AP: "Previous trial sessions have included character-witness testimony from the director and captain of the Russian team that Griner played for in the off-season, and written testimony such as the American doctor’s letter saying he had authorized her to use cannabis for pain treatment."
Grtiner plays for the Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg near Siberia in the WNBA off season. She was detained on Febraury 19 for possessing vape cartridges.
Predictably, Russia's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova fired back: “If drugs are legalized in the United States, in a number of states, and this is done for a long time and now the whole country will become drug-addicted, this does not mean that all other countries are following the same path.
“If a U.S. citizen was taken in connection with the fact that she was smuggling drugs, and she does not deny this, then this should be commensurate with our Russian local laws, and not with those adopted in San Francisco, New York and Washington," she added.
Defending Griner: “We're not arguing that Brittney took it here as a medicine. We are still saying that she involuntarily brought it here because she was in a rush."
Griner's attorney Alexander Boykov said after the hearing: “The Russian public has to know, and the Russian court in the first place has to know, that it was not used for recreational purposes in the United States. It was prescribed by a doctor. We're not arguing that Brittney took it here as a medicine. We are still saying that she involuntarily brought it here because she was in a rush."
It's unlikely the Russian court will sympathize with Griner's haste while packing.
Considering the frosty state of relations between the two superpowers, expect Russian to throw the book at Griner (a conviction with a 10-year sentence). Then the diplomatic discussions about securing her release will begin in earnest.
Update: On July 27, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the Biden administration made a "substantial proposal" to Russia two weeks ago, offering to swap Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms trafficker serving a 25-year prison sentence in the U.S., for Griner and Paul Whelan, an American charged with espionage and jailed in Russia since 2018. Biden signed off on the proposal, Blinken added.