Griner’s arrest was improper, legal team says
No attorney was present, Griner tested, and she said her rights were not explained to her, which, according to Russian law, should have occurred within three hours. Those rights would include her right to know what she was suspected of and to have access to a defense attorney from the moment she was detained — including the ability to have a private meeting before her first interrogation by authorities.
Griner signed documents that were unclear to her, she said, and she had to use Google Translate on her phone to try and make sense of what was happening.
Griner’s detention, search and arrest were “improper,” Alexander Boykov, one of his lawyers, said Wednesday. More details would be revealed, he said, during closing arguments expected to take place “in a manner of a couple of weeks.”
She tested she did not know the oil was in her bag
The two-time Olympic gold medalist was aware of Russian drug laws, she tested, and the cannabis oil was in her luggage due to “stress packing” in a rush.
“I still don’t understand to this day how they ended up in my bags,” Griner said.
Griner “confirmed that she had a doctor’s prescription for the use of medical cannabis,” which “is quite a popular treatment among professional athletes. She emphasized that she never planned to bring it to Russia and use it,” attorney Maria Blagovolina told reporters after the hearing.
A knee injury forced her into a wheelchair for four months, Griner told the court, and she used the substance for inflamed knee and ankle joints. She also emphasized she did not use it before tournaments to prevent possible disqualifications.
Griner “explained to the court that she knows and respects Russian laws and never intended to break them,” Blagovolina said. Griner also told the court she enjoyed playing basketball in Russia during the WNBA’s offseason and that her club, UMMC Ekaterinburg, became a second home to her, Blagovolina said.
“We continue to insist that, by indiscretion, in a hurry, she packed her suitcase and did not pay attention to the fact that substances allowed for use in the United States ended up in this suitcase and arrived in the Russian Federation,” Boykov said .
Prisoner swap is proposed, US officials say
Griner’s attorneys, Blagovolina and Boykov, learned of the possible swap through news reports, they said. While not participating in those discussions, the two said they would be pleased with any productive results.
“From the legal perspective, the swap is possible only after the court reaches a verdict. In any case, we would be really happy if Brittney will be able to come home and hope it will be soon,” they said.
Griner is due to return to Khimki regional court August 2.
‘Really good luck’ of release, says freed American
Since the reporting of the proposed swap became public, officials say families have been kept abreast of certain developments and supporters have expressed hope that the deal is accepted by Russia.
National Security Council communications coordinator John Kirby said a senior administration official spoke with the families prior to Blinken’s announcement about the proposal. Biden recently spoke by phone with Griner’s wife, Cherelle, and Whelan’s sister, Elizabeth.
David Whelan, Paul’s brother, said in a statement, “Our family appreciates the Biden Administration seeking Paul’s release using the resources it has available. We hope the Russian government responds to the US government and accepts this or some other concession that enables Paul to come home to his family.”
“I think that, you know, if the Russians are not stupid then they’ll take that offer,” Reed said.
“The only reason we’re having this conversation is because they’re trying to use her for leverage against the United States,” Allred told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “Clearly we’re having to do whatever it takes to get her home, and I’m hoping this package will be accepted by the Russians.”
CNN’s Chris Liakos, Dakin Andone, Zahra Ullah, Abby Phillip, Kaitlan Collins, Evan Perez, Jennifer Hansler, Kylie Atwood, Michael Conte, Christian Sierra, DJ Judd, Shawna Mizelle, AnneClaire Stapleton and Brynn Wierbowski contributed to this report.