Brittney Griner's lawyers are making a case for the WNBA star.
The athlete, wearing a Nirvana T-shirt, appeared in Russian court for her fourth hearing on July 15, with her defense team now saying she had a prescription to take medical marijuana to treat a chronic injury. "The attending physician gave Brittney recommendations for the use of medical cannabis," one of her lawyers, Maria Blagovolina, told the Associated Press. "The permission was issued on behalf of the Arizona Department of Health."
The Phoenix Mercury star, who plays for Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA's off-season, was arrested in February at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport for allegedly possessing vape cartridges containing cannabis oil. Griner was charged with smuggling of narcotics, which carries a possible sentence of five to 10 years in prison, according to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, the Russian Federal Customs Service announced on Telegram after her arrest.
On July 7, she pleaded guilty to all charges, telling the judge, "But there was no intent. I didn't want to break the law."
Blagovolina has said the legal team expects "leniency of the court, taking into account all the circumstances of the case and taking into account the personality of our client."
President Joe Biden, who has communicated with the athlete by letter, recently told Griner's wife Cherelle "that he is working to secure Brittney's release as soon as possible, as well as the release of...other U.S. nationals who are wrongfully detained or held hostage in Russia and around the world."
In addition to the athlete's partner, her teammates have also rallied behind her in her bid for freedom. While behind bars July 15, she was photographed by news photographers holding up a photo of WNBA players all wearing No. 42 jerseys in her honor during the league's recent all-star game.
Her Russian team UMMC Yekaterinburg also has her back. During a previous hearing on July 14, club director Maxim Ryabkov raved about her "outstanding abilities as a player and personal contribution to strengthening team spirit," Griner's lawyer told Reuters, adding that team captain Evgeniya Belyakova also testified in Griner's defense.