Courts in Russia convicted American basketball player Brittney Griner on Thursday for smuggling cannabis-infused vape cartridges into the country, despite the fact that they were prohibited.
The 31-year-old athlete’s sentencing might pave the way for a prisoner swap between the United States and Russia that would include the imprisoned Russian and a former arms dealer.
An emotional Griner begged the judge to spare her the hefty prison sentence she was facing for importing hashish oil-laced vape cartridges into Russia. She afterwards broke down in tears.
If Griner is found guilty of smuggling illegal substances into Russia, the Russian prosecutor has requested that she be sentenced to nine-and-a-half years in a Russian prison.
With hashish oil in her luggage, Griner was stopped at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on February 17. She admitted to the crime, but insisted she had no intention of harming anyone or bringing a prohibited chemical into Russia.
Griner said in court, “I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your judgement, that it doesn’t terminate my life here.”
“My parents instilled in me two crucial lessons: first, take responsibility for your actions, and second, work hard for what you have. As a result, I entered a guilty plea.”
He became caught up in the geopolitical storm sparked by Vladimir Putin’s deployment of soldiers to Ukraine on February 24.
US President Joe Biden is under pressure to intervene on behalf of American citizens jailed in Russia as relations between the two countries are at their worst since 1962’s Cuban missile crisis.
When asked about politics in the trial, Griner remarked, “I hope it is removed from this courtroom.”
Both medical and recreational use of cannabis is outlawed in Russia.