Dressed in a Phoenix Mercury t-shirt, WNBA player Brittney Griner appeared before a Russian judge at the Khimki District Court today (July 27). The 31-year-old athlete took the stand to testify in her marijuana possession case. Although Griner recently pleaded guilty to traveling with vape cartridges containing cannabis oil, she maintains that she had no intentions of breaking the law.
The Olympian used a translator to speak to the courtroom, according to the New York Post. Griner stated that although she was aware of the U.S. State Department warning against American citizens traveling to Russia, she “could not let her team down.” Griner played with Russia’s women’s basketball team UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA’s off-season. The athlete was traveling in the area just as the United States became an ally in Ukraine’s war against Russia. Many believe Russian officials are using Griner as a political pawn. She has been in custody since Feb. 17 and faces 10 years in prison for the offense.
Griner testified that at the time of her arrest, she was not read her rights. She added that an interpreter was not immediately provided, causing her to depend on her cell phone to translate conversations and paperwork. The athlete said she was told to sign documentation without knowing what the forms said. On July 15, Griner’s lawyers argued that a doctor legally prescribed the cannabis to treat chronic pain associated with injuries. “The attending physician gave Brittney recommendations for the use of medical cannabis,” attorney Maria Blagovolina said.
She continued, “The permission was issued on behalf of the Arizona Department of Health. The defense today provided written evidence, including character materials, medical documents and tax returns. Among the medical documents is a doctor’s note for the substance that Brittney Griner inadvertently left among her belongings when crossing the border.” Griner has faced several detainment extensions, with the most recent continuing until Dec. 20. According to CNN, Griner’s lawyers believe the trial will end early next month.