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Brittney Griner appeared in a Russian courtroom for the first time since she was arrested in February for allegedly carrying cannabis oil cartridges in her bag while entering an airport near Moscow.
Griner was led into court in handcuffs, an orange hoodie covered her lowered head and long dreadlocks spilled out over her face like a dark curtain. The 6-foot-9 Phoenix Mercury center and two-time Olympic gold medalist towered over those around her – Russians who once welcomed her in their country where she played during the off-season for the UMMC Ekaterinburg women’s team for nearly seven years.
Sad day in court, trial coming soon
The judge in the Moscow courtroom extended Griner’s pre-trial detention for one month. This was Griner’s first hearing and first public appearance since she was arrested on February 17, one week before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Griner’s lawyer Alexander Boikov told The Associated Press that he believed the relatively short extension of the detention indicated the case would come to trial soon. If found guilty, Griner could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.
Although the U.S State Department recently determined that Griner was being “wrongfully detained,” the Russians have described Griner’s case as a criminal offense. The WNBA and U.S. officials working toward her release seem to be making little visible progress. Though Russia and the U.S. carried out a prisoner exchange in April when former marine Trevor Reed was exchanged for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot who was serving a 20-year federal sentence for cocaine smuggling into the U.S.
Will they ever learn?
Meanwhile, the WNBA season got underway last week without one of its biggest stars. One wonders if/when Griner is released and back on the court, the WNBA and other women’s sports clubs will have concluded that paying their athletes low salaries is a terrible way to treat their players.