Russia Sets Brittney Griner's Appeal Date

Basketball star Brittney Griner’s appeal hearing has been scheduled for October 25 by a Russian court, according to the Associated Press.

The WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury center and two-time Olympic gold medalist has been in a Russian jail for 230 days. She was convicted of drug possession on August 4 after police found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at an airport in Moscow. 

Griner admitted she had the canisters in her luggage but testified that she packed them inadvertently and that there was no criminal intent. Her defense team says that she had been prescribed cannabis to treat pain. She was sentenced to nine years in prison. The judge also fined her one million rubles (approximately $16,700).

According to the AP, after Griner’s conviction, her lawyers argued that the nine-year sentence was excessive. They said that defendants in similar cases had received an average sentence of five years.  

On Tuesday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a press briefing that the Kremlin had yet to respond to the “serious” proposal made by the Biden administration in July to free Griner. Jean-Pierre reiterated the White House’s stance that Griner has been wrongfully imprisoned and called her coming appeal “another sham judicial proceeding.”

The US State Department declared Griner to have been “wrongfully detained.” However, Russia has denied that claim. In July, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated that Washington had made a “substantial proposal” to get Griner home and Paul Whelan, an American serving a 16-year sentence in Russia for espionage.

President Biden met with Cherelle Griner, Brittney Griner’s wife, and the player’s agent, Lindsay Colas last month. Biden also met with Elizabeth Whelan, Paul Whelan’s sister.

Following the meetings, the White House stated that the president reiterated to the families his “continued commitment to working through all available avenues to bring Brittney and Paul home safely.”

Brittney Griner will turn 32 on October 18, just one week before her appeal hearing is scheduled. 

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