MOSCOW—Lawyers for U.S. women’s basketball star
filed an appeal against her conviction in Russia on drugs charges and her nine-year sentence in an attempt to secure a fresh ruling in the case, her defense team said.
“We are asking the court to review the whole case and pay attention to the inconsistency of the prosecutor’s evidence and to pay attention to our evidence and to come up with a new decision,” Alexander Boykov, a member of Ms. Griner’s legal team, told The Wall Street Journal on Monday.
Mr. Boykov said the defense was “pushing the arguments” they initially presented in the case but they felt “were ignored by the court,” he said. “There were many arguments.”
The arguments include what Ms. Griner’s legal team say were violations of the law on the part of law-enforcement officials when Ms. Griner was detained in mid-February, and an appeal for possible leniency from the court based on the athlete’s character, Mr. Boykov said.
Her defense team characterized the verdict as unreasonable, following the ruling on Aug. 4 and noted that defendants typically receive a more moderate sentence for crimes such as the one for which Ms. Griner was convicted.
Regular appeals take around three months to be decided, Mr. Boykov said. But Ms. Griner’s depends on several aspects, including how long it takes for the case files to be physically transferred from the court where she was tried to the appeals court, he said.
“It’s useless to mention deadlines, because it could take forever, or it could take a couple weeks,” he said.
Ms. Griner pleaded guilty in July to bringing hashish oil into Russia as she was returning to the Russian team she plays for in the off season. She said she packed the drugs by mistake and never intended to violate Russian law. During the trial, she presented an Arizona doctor’s prescription to use marijuana to treat pain.
The judge convicted Ms. Griner of bringing marijuana with criminal intent into Russia and gave the athlete close to the maximum 10-year penalty for the charges of drug possession and smuggling. The 5½ months Ms. Griner spent in detention ahead of her trial was included in the sentence and she was also fined 1 million rubles, equivalent to about $16,220.
U.S. women’s basketball star Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison Thursday after being convicted of bringing marijuana with criminal intent into the country in February. Griner’s lawyers said they would file an appeal. Photo: Anton Novoderezhkin/Zuma Press
The outcome of Ms. Griner’s case was expected to clear the way for negotiations between the U.S. and Russia over her release to move forward. Relations between the two countries have recently hit historic lows over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
The day after Ms. Griner was sentenced, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference that Moscow was ready to discuss a prisoner swap with Washington. The basketball star and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan could be traded for a Russian arms dealer imprisoned in the U.S., people familiar with the matter said.
The U.S. maintains Ms. Griner and Mr. Whelan have been wrongfully detained.
Mr. Boykov said his client would remain at the same facility she has been at since being detained, on the outskirts of Moscow, until her appeal is heard.
He said Ms. Griner was coping well, despite the circumstances.
“She was, I wouldn’t say depressed, but she wasn’t well for a couple of days, because it was a very harsh sentence, very unusual for those types of cases,” the lawyer said. “But now she’s doing OK because she’s a character. She’s very positive minded.”
Write to Ann M. Simmons at email@example.com
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Appeared in the August 16, 2022, print edition as ‘Griner’s Lawyers File Appeal of Conviction.’
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