Brittney Griner’s Criminal Trial Begins Friday in Russia. Do Not Expect a Good Outcome.

The WNBA star will be detained for another six months pending the results of the trial, but it doesn’t look promising.

Brittney Griner’s Criminal Trial Begins Friday in Russia. Do Not Expect a Good Outcome.
Photo:AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko (AP)

A Russian court has scheduled Brittney Griner’s criminal trial to begin on Friday, according to the WNBA player’s lawyer. Pending the conclusion of the trial, which her attorney says could take up to two months, the court ruled that she would be detained for another six months.

According to the New York Times, Griner’s lawyer Aleksandr Boikov said that Griner, who was seen handcuffed and escorted by guards during the hearing, will remain in detention at least until the trial ends. The pretrial hearing took place in Khimki city court near Moscow, and, according to a video from Russian news agency TASS, Griner did not speak following the hearing. The next hearing is scheduled for July 1.

While Griner’s wife Cherelle has repeatedly expressed concern about the conditions of Griner’s detention and about her overall health and wellbeing, Boikov told the Times that Griner “feels well and has no complaints about her treatment in the pretrial detention center.”

“It is hot in Moscow, so she feels that too, especially while being transported to the court,” Boikov added.

But the precedent set by other American hostages in Russia, like Marine veteran Trevor Reed, all but points to a conviction, according to reporting at Defector. As ESPN writer TJ Quinn points out, Russia’s trials can be interpreted as more of a theatrical stand-in for actual judicial proceedings—a bargaining chip to get the Biden administration to come to the table.

Griner, a center for the Phoenix Mercury, has been detained for more than three months in Russia on drug possession charges after she was arrested in a Russian airport for allegedly carrying vape cartridges with traces of hash oil. If carried out, Griner could receive a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

In May, the Biden administration classified Griner as wrongfully detained, but Cherelle told the Times that despite multiple requests to meet with Biden in person to discuss Griner’s release, there is no such meeting currently on the books, and Cherelle is losing her patience. She said the administration appears to be “debating whether they should start negotiating,” and are “wasting time from my wife’s life.”

“To my understanding, they have not started negotiating her release, and so this letter is very powerful because it’s much-needed support to highlight the fact that we are at the phase where you guys should be making a deal,” Cherelle said in an interview with the Times. “I wish I could say I have a clear understanding of [the White House strategy]. They do a lot of talking in code with me.”

Last week, Griner was named an honorary WNBA All-Star Game starter for the game scheduled on July 10 in Chicago. And on Wednesday, a group of 40 civil and human rights organizations including GLAAD, Athlete Ally, and Human Rights Campaign sent a letter to the White House, addressed directly to President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. The letter urged the Biden administration to prioritize negotiating for Griner’s release. A spokesperson for Putin has said that Griner is not a political prisoner. (She is.)

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