Brittney Griner Russia Appeal: ‘Pessimistic,’ Not Expecting ‘Miracles’



  • WNBA superstar Brittney Griner has been wrongfully detained in Russia since February.
  • The American, who was convicted on drug charges, will appear virtually in court for an appeal hearing Tuesday.
  • Griner “does not expect any miracles,” her lawyers said in a statement provided to Insider.

Brittney Griner and her supporters are hopeful that the outcome of Tuesday’s appeal hearing will fall in favor of the wrongfully detained WNBA superstar.

But Griner is staying realistic — and bordering on “pessimistic,” one attorney told MSNBC — about the entire process. She “does not expect any miracles,” her lawyers, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, said in a statement provided to Insider, but she “hopes that the appeal court will hear the arguments of the defense and reduce the number of years” on her initial sentence.

Brittney Griner.

Griner interacts with her attorneys during a hearing in Moscow.

Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool Photo via AP



“Brittney is very mentally strong and has a champion’s character,” Blagovolina and Boykov said. “However, she of course has her highs and lows as she is under an increasing amount of stress and has been separated from her loved ones for over eight months.”

Griner was first arrested in February, when customs agents at a Moscow airport found vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage. Ever since, the two-time Olympic gold medalist has been navigating an inconsistent Russian legal system known to be hostile towards Americans.

Her pre-trial detention was extended several times, and once she finally found herself in front of a judge, Griner came up against “a kangaroo court” less interested in justice than in bringing the state’s “predetermined” outcome to fruition, sources told Insider ahead of the trial.

Brittney Griner.

Griner is escorted through the courthouse.

Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool/Reuters



Though she pleaded guilty in an effort to secure leniency, the eight-time WNBA All-Star was sentenced to a near-maximum nine years at a Russian penal colony. She and her lawyers almost immediately appealed the decision, though legal experts told Insider the move is unlikely to secure her freedom.

Still, Griner “is prepared for the appeal and is very nervous,” her attorneys noted. She’s not in a good headspace, her wife has said in recent interviews, and she understands that she’s unlikely to leave Russia before the November 8 midterm elections back home in the United States.

Her most promising pathway out of foreign custody involves a prisoner exchange between the White House and the Kremlin. Though the US has reportedly offered to swap notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout to secure the freedom of Griner and fellow American Paul Whelan, American government officials have maintained that they have yet to receive a serious counteroffer out of Moscow.

Brittney Griner.

Griner sits in a holding cell.

Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool/Reuters



Griner will not be physically present at Tuesday’s appeal hearing, but she will video conference in from the detention center where she’s been held for the majority of her eight-month incarceration. Should the courts uphold their initial decision, the 32-year-old will almost certainly spend time in one of Russia’s infamous penal colonies. 



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