The wife of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison for drug possession, says she believes Griner is ‘a hostage’ and fears she will never see her again.
Cherelle Griner said she was “scared” in her first interview since Brittney was convicted on drug possession charges on Aug. 4.
“No way in the world did I ever think, you know, our president and the president of a foreign nation would sit down to discuss my wife’s freedom,” Cherelle shared CBS News.
‘To me, as if she were a hostage.
‘It scares me because I mean when you watch movies, sometimes those situations don’t end well. Sometimes they never get the person back.’
Brittney is due to appear in a Russian court on October 25 to appeal her nine-year prison sentence.
Cherelle Griner (pictured) spoke to CBS News on Wednesday. This is the first time she has addressed the media since her wife, Brittney, was convicted on drug possession charges in Russia
Griner said of Brittney’s nine-year incarceration, “And as much as everyone tells me a different definition of what BG is, it feels to me like she’s a hostage.”
Brittney Griner (pictured) was arrested on suspicion of drug possession at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport on February 17
Brittney, an eight-time all-star center with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was arrested on February 17 after police found vape containers of cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.
She admitted that she had the containers in her luggage, but added that she had inadvertently packed them while she was in a hurry. Her legal team provided affidavits indicating that Brittney was prescribed cannabis to treat pain.
In the months leading up to her conviction, the US State Department said she was being ‘wrongfully detained’ by the Russian government.
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.
Cherelle previously spoke to President Joe Biden about Brittney’s return to the United States and said she believes the administration is doing everything in its power to return her wife.
“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’
“I’ll give credit where it’s due, and I feel like this administration is putting a lot of work into ways to bring BG home through negotiations,” Cherelle said in July
Cherelle last spoke to the media and President Joe Biden shortly before the August 4 sentencing.
In her meeting with Biden, Cherelle said New York Times that the acting president assured her and the Griner family that the US government will pursue ‘any avenue to bring Brittney home.’
Biden, who also met with Elizabeth Whelan, Paul’s sister, held separate meetings to reassure the families that the detainees “are on their minds,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
“We will continue to do everything we can and work tirelessly every day to make sure we get them home,” she told reporters.
Brittney had sent a handwritten letter to Biden asking for help.
“I’m afraid I may 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.’
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 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.
Two months after Brittney was sentenced, Cherelle said she’s starting to question whether she’ll ever see her wife again.
“I mean, this is my life, and so I’m sitting there going, ‘Are we getting her back? Am I ever going to see my wife again?'” she said.
‘Like, what’s going on here? The fact that everything is so unprecedented and everything is changeable, I think is a really good word. Like I feel like every day I hear something new and then it’s just that it’s scary.’
She told CBS’ Gayle King that she is pursuing a law degree while trying to maintain a normal lifestyle despite the unprecedented situation she is in.