KHIMKI, Russia (AP) — Russian prosecutors have asked a court outside Moscow to sentence American basketball star Brittney Griner to 9 1/2 years in prison on cannabis possession charges.
Closing arguments in Griner’s trial are taking place Thursday, nearly six months after her arrest at a Moscow airport and subsequent detention in a case that has reached the highest levels of U.S.-Russia diplomacy.
Although a conviction appears almost certain, given that Russian courts rarely acquit defendants and Griner has acknowledged having vape cartridges with cannabis oil in her luggage, judges have considerable latitude on sentencing.
Lawyers for the Phoenix Mercury center and two-time Olympic gold medalist have pursued strategies to bolster Griner’s contention that she had no criminal intent and that the canisters ended up in her luggage due to hasty packing. They have presented character witnesses from the Russian team that she plays for in the WNBA off-season and written testimony from a doctor who said he prescribed her cannabis for pain treatment.