Brittany Griner’s Russian team members defend her during trial

WNBA star Brittney Griner had her third hearing in a court outside Moscow on Thursday, one week after pleading guilty to drug charges for having vape cartridges.

Griner, 31, has been detained in Russia since February 17, when authorities at a Moscow airport found cannabis vape cartridges in her luggage, containing less than a gram of hash oil. Her lawyers say that she packed them by mistake when she came to play for a Russian team during the US off season.

During the Thursday hearing, her Russian teammates spoke in her defense. Evgeniya Belyakova, the team’s captain, told the court that Griner was “the heart of our team,” and that she was “adored” by fans in Russia.

The defense called three witnesses testify, all of whom are involved with UMMC Yekaterinburg, the Russian team for which Griner has played since 2014.

According to Griner’s attorneys, Maxim Ryabkov, director of UMMC Ekaterinburg, also “gave a positive description of Brittney Griner during his speech in court, noting her outstanding abilities as a player and personal contribution to strengthening the team spirit, which allowed the team to achieve the highest results in the Russian basketball premier league and in international competitions for many years.”

Griner could be sentenced to 10 years behind bars, but her lawyers are hoping that a guilty plea will expedite the process of getting her home to American soil.

Griner’s reps said, “Considering the nature of her case, the insignificant amount of the substance and BG’s personality and history of positive contributions to global and Russian sport, the defense hopes that the plea will be considered by the court as a mitigating factor and there will be no severe sentence.”

A fourth hearing in her trial at the Khimki Court outside Moscow is scheduled for Friday morning.

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