WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was arrested at a Moscow airport in February for allegedly carrying cannabis vape cartridges, made her first court appearance Friday and got her pretrial detention extended by a month.
Griner, 31, a 6-foot-9 center for the Phoenix Mercury, appeared in handcuffs, her head held low and covered by an orange hoodie.
Her lawyer, Alexander Boykov, told The Associated Press he believes that the relatively short pretrial extension suggests the case would come to trial soon.
“We did not receive any complaints about the detention conditions from our client,” he said.
Griner has been in detention for nearly three months after being arrested in mid-February for allegedly having the cannabis vape cartridges in her luggage.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist faces five to 10 years in Russian prison if convicted on drug-smuggling charges.
The Biden administration says Griner is being wrongfully detained. US and WNBA officials have worked toward her release, without visible progress.
The Russians have described Griner’s case as a criminal offense without making any political associations.
Washington and Moscow have kept diplomatic channels open amid deeply strained relations since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.
Last month, the US and Russia carried out an unexpected prisoner swap — trading ex-Marine and accused spy Trevor Reed for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving a 20-year federal sentence for conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the US.
The US made the deal in part because Yaroshenko had already served a long portion of his prison sentence.
The Russians may consider Griner a potential part of another such exchange.
The State Department’s classification of Griner as wrongfully detained suggests the US will be more active in trying to secure her release as her case plays out.
The status places the athlete’s case under the purview of the department’s Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, which is responsible for negotiating for the release of hostages and Americans deemed wrongfully detained.
Also working on the case is a center led by Bill Richardson, the former US ambassador to the UN who helped secure the release of several hostages and detainees, including Reed.
Griner, who won the WNBA championship in 2014 with the Phoenix Mercury, has played for a Russian team in the offseason for the past several years.
With Post Wires