Brittney Griner sentenced to 9 years in a Russian penal colony: live updates

Ivan Nechepurenko

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American basketball star Brittney Griner testified on Thursday before being sentenced to nine years in a penal colony for trafficking hashish oil in Russia.creditCredit…Pool photo by Evgenia Novozhenina

Brittney Griner offered insight into her personal story while testifying in a Russian court on Thursday in a case in which she faces a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. Her legal team appealed for leniency in the case, arguing that she contributed to Russian society and had no intention of breaking the law.

“I grew up in a normal house, a normal household in Houston, Texas, with my siblings, my mom and my dad,” Ms. Griner, 31, told the court. “My parents taught me two important things: one, take responsibility and two, work hard for whatever you get. That’s why I pleaded guilty to my charges.

“I understand everything that was said against me in the charges against me, but I did not attempt to break Russian law,” added Ms. Griner, who was detained in mid-February in a Moscow airport on her way to Yekaterinburg, a Russian city near the Ural Mountains where she played for a local team during the WNBA offseason.

Customs officers found two vape cartridges containing less than one gram of hash oil in his luggage.

“I want the court to understand that it was an honest mistake that I made rushing and under stress trying to recover from Covid and just trying to get back to my team,” she told the court Thursday.

Ms. Griner also talked about her time playing for UMMC Yekaterinburg.

“That hard work that my parents instilled in me is what led me to play for the best Russian team,” she said. “I had no idea that the team, the city, the fans and my teammates would make such a good impression on me during the six and a half years I spent in Yekaterinburg. It has become my second home with my friends, my teammates and my fans that I will always interact with.

The basketball star has apologized to his Russian and Yekaterinburg teammates, family and fellow WNBA players, including his Arizona team, the Phoenix Mercury .

Addressing the judge handling the case, Anna S. Sotnikova, Ms. Griner said: “I made an honest mistake, and I hope that in your decision it will not end my life here. “

She also hinted at the possibility of a prisoner exchange that would allow her to return to the United States, an issue that has been discussed between Moscow and Washington, with pressure on President Biden to help obtain his release.

“I know everyone talks about political pawn and politics, but I hope it’s away from this courtroom,” she added. Grier said.