Brittney Griner’s defense team files appeal to Russian verdict

Embed from Getty Images
A couple of weeks ago, WNBA superstar Brittney Griner was convicted and sentenced to nine years in Russian jail for drug-smuggling after a six-month detention and a one-month trial. At the time, her lawyers said they would appeal, that the court ignored evidence, and that the average jail time for this is usually five years. Her legal team has now filed an appeal against the court’s verdict. One of Brittney’s attorney’s noted that the verdict appeal and potential prisoner swap operate separately and shouldn’t affect each other as the appeal is legal and the potential swap is diplomatic.

Brittney Griner’s legal team has filed an appeal against a Russian court’s verdict sentencing the WNBA star to nine years in prison for smuggling drugs into Russia, Griner’s lawyer told CNN on Monday, days after the Russian government confirmed for the first time discussions about a potential prisoner swap involving a convicted Russian arms dealer.

The US State Department maintains Griner is wrongfully detained, and her case has raised concerns she is being used as a political pawn in Russia’s war against Ukraine. US officials have offered a potential prisoner swap to try to bring her home safely.

Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout’s name has been mentioned in bilateral talks between Moscow and Washington over a prisoner swap involving Griner and American Paul Whelan, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s North American Department director, Alexander Darchiev, told Russian state media TASS on Saturday.

“This quite sensitive issue of the swap of convicted Russian and US citizens is being discussed through the channels defined by our Presidents. These individuals are, indeed, being discussed. The Russian side has long been seeking the release of Viktor Bout. The details should be left to professionals, proceeding from the ‘do not harm’ principle,” Darchiev said in response to a request for comment on US news reports that US officials had sent a proposal to Moscow on swapping Bout for Griner and Whelan, TASS reported.

The US government “continues to urge Russia to release wrongful detainees Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan,” a US State Department spokesperson said Monday. “As Secretary (of State Antony) Blinken said, ‘There was a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago to facilitate their release.'”

“We will not go into detail of what we proposed to the Russians,” the spokesperson added.

The verdict appeal and potential prisoner swap conversations operate independently, said Griner attorney Alexander Boykov of Moscow Legal Center.

“It should not affect them. This is a part of legal process. Prisoner talks come through diplomatic channels. Since the appeal could be withdrawn any time before the actual hearing, there’s no reason for Russian government to wait,” he said.

[From CNN]

Russian government spokespeople were previously making vague and ominous comments saying the US shouldn’t be discussing this case or negotiating in the press, but Russia recently confirmed for the first time that prisoner swap discussions are, in fact, happening. We already knew that, but now they’re confirming it as well. Other than the news that Russia also confirmed and Brittney’s attorney’s filed an appeal, the US State Department made a statement Monday that there is a substantial proposal on the table and they’re continuing to urge Russia to release Brittney and Paul Whelan. The US won’t go into detail other than to say it’s substantial. It seems like everything is riding on the prisoner swap and the appeal is unlikely to do much. But I think the appeal does serve the purpose of boosting morale and shows that Brittney’s attorneys are trying their best for her and going through every legal channel they have at their disposal. Hopefully Russia agrees to whatever deal the US has put on the table and Brittney and Paul are able to get home soon.

Embed from Getty Images

Embed from Getty Images

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

9 Responses to “Brittney Griner’s defense team files appeal to Russian verdict”

Comments are Closed

We close comments on older posts to fight comment spam.

  1. Lady D says:

    I hope she’s home soon and stays safe until she is. Horrible situation for her to be in.

  2. Smart&Messy says:

    I’m so torn about her case. If I were her family I’d want to leave no stone unturned for her release. She made a very stupid mistake, which in no way equates to taking 10 years of her life and ending her career.

    On the other hand, a lot of work and sacrifice from law enforcement and intell agencies went into capturing the arms dealer and the murderer they would now release, to kill more people and destroy lives.

    • ElleV says:

      I agree – she made an incredibly stupid mistake and I don’t think anyone should have to rot in a foreign jail for a stupid mistake, and it sucks that her dumb choice means dangerous people go free

      • Julia K says:

        There are a significant number of people in the U.S. rotting in US prisons because of stupid mistakes. Committing a crime while stupid is no defense.

    • rea says:

      She became too comfortable. I highly doubt this is the first time she entered or took out substance into that country. But that is the thing people will look to take advantage of others once they find their weaknesses. I highly doubt this was coincidental. Someone probably knew she was doing this stuff and tipped off the authorities so they kept their eye on her and used that weakness when the time was right.
      I hope this event is enough to change the way women’s sports are run. Because it makes no sense for men and women’s sports to have such a distinct pay range. Its sucks that in this day and time women’s rights to fair pay have not improved or other rights instead things seem to be going backwards.

  3. Luna17 says:

    So it sounds like the vape pen wasn’t planted (originally what her defenders were saying) so she just thought flying out of Russia with illegal drugs on her was fine?! I don’t think the punishment fits the crime but she is a 30 something year old woman who should know better. I use cannabis and even have a medical card in a legal state but would never fly with it, even to another legal state.

    So a dangerous criminal is likely going to be released that my tax dollars went to chasing after because this woman needed weed while she was making millions playing for a Russian Ogliarch? Would the American government do that for me? Guessing not. She greatly benefitted from Russian money, making way more than she did in the US but doesn’t want to obey there laws? It seems she had no problem with Russian human rights issues when she was making all this money but now she’s the victim because she didn’t follow a really basic rule?

    I also checked out her Wikipedia because I wasn’t familiar with her and apparently she has a history of domestic violence and had to be ordered to pay child support for her twins with her ex-wife. She came across as someone who doesn’t think the rules apply to them which I find very offputting. I feel like if I was in Russian jail for the same issue she wouldn’t be supporting me to get out.

  4. BeanieBean says:

    I find it interesting that Russia even has some semblance of a judicial system. I have no idea about how modern Russia works, I’ve just made assumptions based on how things have worked in the past. As in they don’t, really. Corruption, evil, power, sycophancy, etc., always benefit the few, not the average citizen. Or in this case, visitor. Why on earth sentence her to nine years if the standard is five? How on earth is even five years suitable for this type of crime? Why the heck should a trial for this type of crime last a month??

  5. jferber says:

    This must be so traumatic. How many other American prisoners are unlawfully detained in Russia? I hope the U.S. can get even more people out, especially since Russia wants big time criminals back for the misdemeanor of Brittney (if she is even guilty of, which I doubt).

  6. HelloDannie says:

    Such a scary situation. Hoping Brittney will be home soon.