(AP) — Brittney Griner spent her 32nd birthday in a Russian prison, awaiting an appeal of her nine-year sentence for drug possession which is scheduled for next week.
The WNBA star was especially lately, according to to his lawyers. They were with her for a birthday party on Tuesday.
Rybalkin, Gortsunyan, Dyakin partner Maria Blagovolina said it wasn’t much of a party, but Griner’s attorneys conveyed well wishes from family and friends.
“She smiled, it was really good to see her smile,” Blagovolina wrote in an email to The Associated Press.
Griner then released a statement through his agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas.
“Thank you all for fighting so hard to bring me home. All the support and love is really helping me out,” Griner said.
Griner’s appeal hearing is scheduled for October 25. Although the appeal is unlikely to overturn his conviction, his lawyers hope it could reduce the sentence.
“We hope the length of the sentence will be reduced,” Blagovolina said.
Griner was sentenced on August 4 in an unusually quick verdict and given a longer sentence than most Russian receivers for similar offences. The 6-foot-9 center, who played professionally in Russia during the WNBA offseason, was detained Feb. 17, a week before Russia invaded Ukraine.
Police said they found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in Griner’s luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. Her attorneys said she was prescribed cannabis for the pain, and Griner said she inadvertently packaged them and had no criminal intent.
Griner is also awaiting a potential prisoner swap between Russia and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken took the unusual step of publicly revealing in July that Washington had made a “substantial offer” to bring Griner home, along with Paul Whelan, a American. serving a 16-year sentence in Russia for espionage.
Blinken did not give details, but the AP and other news organizations reported that Washington had offered to trade Griner and Whelan for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year prison sentence. United States and who once earned the nickname “death merchant”.
The White House said it has yet to receive a productive response from Russia to the offer.
His friends and family are trying to keep Griner’s name at the forefront of people’s minds amid delicate negotiations between the United States and Russia that seem to have stalled.
“I’m praying for his sanity and his sanity and we’re doing what we can to help keep his name out there,” said South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, who coached Griner at the Tokyo Olympics. last year. “To bring her home. I hope it is at a time that is sooner rather than later. She’s one of us in an incredible situation, it’s going to take positive synergy, prayers and powerful people making deals to bring her home.
Stephen Curry, Golden State guard took time out at the Warriors championship ring ceremony Tuesday night to make an impassioned plea for Griner.
“We want to continue using our platform and the opportunity to shout out a very special member of the basketball community. Brittney Griner’s birthday is today, she’s 32,” Curry told the crowd before the defending NBA champions beat the Los Angeles Lakers. “We want to continue to make her name known and we are praying (…) it has been 243 days since she was wrongfully incarcerated in Russia. We hope that she will come home soon, that everyone will do their part to bring her home.
The USA women’s team won their fourth consecutive World Cup title earlier this month and captain Breanna Stewart said the medal was dedicated to Griner, who would have made the team had she not been in jail.
Griner was honored when she heard this from her attorneys.
More AP coverage from Griner: https://apnews.com/hub/brittney-griner
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