Jailed WNBA star Brittney Griner is ‘at her absolute weakest moment in her life right now’ as she awaits her appeal on drug charges in a Russian courtroom later this month, her wife said. CBS Morning.
“I don’t know if she has anything left in her tank to continue to wake up every day and be in a place where she has nobody,” Cherelle Griner said ahead of Brittney’s Oct. 25 appeal hearing.
Brittney, a WNBA All-Star and Olympic gold medalist who also played professionally in Russia, was arrested in February at a Moscow airport, where police say they found hash oil in vape cartridges. Although Brittney has claimed she used weed for pain, the Russian justice system was unmoved and she was ultimately sentenced to nine out of a possible 10 years in prison.
Jailed WNBA star Brittney Griner is ‘at her absolute weakest moment in her life right now’ as she awaits her appeal on drug charges in a Russian courtroom later this month, her wife Cherelle (pictured) told CBS Mornings
WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner holds photographs standing inside a defendant’s cage before a hearing at Khimki Court, outside Moscow on July 27
WNBA player Brittney Griner with her spouse Cherelle Griner
Cherelle appeared to acknowledge her wife’s guilt when she spoke to CBS, but criticized the punishment Brittney has received.
“I believe a crime should warrant a punishment,” Cherelle noted. “But it has to be balanced… BG has really suffered more than his crime already.”
Adding to Cherelle’s grief is the prospect of a labor camp if Brittney’s appeal is denied.
“Once that hearing is held and the order is finalized, BG is now in the position where she could be moved to a labor camp,” Cherelle said. ‘My brain can’t even fathom it.’
The situation is obviously complicated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has made Brittney feel like a political pawn.
“She’s like saying things to me like, ‘My life just doesn’t even matter anymore,'” Cherelle said. “You know, ‘I feel like my life just doesn’t matter. I’m kind of just thrown around like that for people’s pleasure and gain.’
“Those are all valid emotions to feel and I don’t have an answer for, other than the fact that your life matters to me and I want you home,” Cherelle said. ‘I will continue to pray every day that you know the people who are the decision makers in this situation will have mercy and sit down and they will also see that your life matters and do what they can agree — on terms.’
Cherelle (right) and Brittney got engaged in 2018 and later married the next year
Griner has only spoken to his wife twice since last February, and the last of the two calls left her partner distraught and crying for days.
That exchange was in stark contrast to an earlier call where Cherelle says Brittney was more upbeat.
“I think I cried for about two, three days straight,” Cherelle told co-host Gayle King. ‘It was the most disturbing phone call I had ever experienced.
‘I think I cried for about two, three days straight. It was the most disturbing phone call I had ever experienced.
“It’s just the most still, I think, moment I’ve ever shared with my wife,” she continued. “I had no words.”
Cherelle remains hopeful that political tensions can lead to a prisoner swap that allows Brittney to return to the United States.
Recently, in a White House meeting, Cherelle was assured that President Joe Biden is still pushing for a solution.
“He’s doing what he can,” Cherelle said. “But there is another party to this situation and we are also dealing with the need for Russia to have mercy on BG as well,” Cherelle said.
“I’m afraid I might be here forever,” she wrote. ‘I know you have so much to do, but don’t forget me and the other American prisoners’
Brittney had sent a handwritten letter to Biden asking for help.
“I’m afraid I might be here forever,” she wrote. ‘I realize you are dealing with so much, but don’t forget me and the other American prisoners. Please do everything you can to bring us home.’
There has been an exchange of prisoners between Russia and the United States in the past.
Former US Marine Trevor Reed was released by Russia in a prisoner swap in April after being convicted of assault in July 2020. He was supposed to serve a nine-year sentence.
“I’ll give credit where it’s due, and I feel like this administration is putting a lot of manpower into ways to bring BG home through negotiations,” Cherelle said in July. ‘Because it’s not as simple as you might think – to look at the list of people we have and ask Russia to choose.
‘It’s more complex than that, and they exhaust a lot of effort.’
The US government previously offered Russia a prisoner swap involving Griner and Paul Whelan, who is serving a 16-year sentence for espionage, for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year sentence in the US.
Subsequent reports say the White House has not received a response to this offer.
The US government has reportedly offered convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout, who faces 25 years in prison, for Griner and Paul Whelan, who is serving a 16-year sentence for spying in Russia.