Brittney Griner had a hearing on Wednesday in Russia, in which state prosecutors received an extension for their pre-trial investigation until May 19. That means Griner, who has reportedly been in Russian police custody since Feb. 17 after she was alleged to have vape cartridges with hashish oil at the Moscow airpot, will remain in detention until at least that date in May.
Per Tom Firestone, a former U.S. Department of Justice resident legal advisor to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, defendants can be detained in Russia for up to a year before their trial and even longer in extreme circumstances.
What do we know about Brittney Griner at this point?— T.J. Quinn (@TJQuinnESPN) March 18, 2022
Right now she’s in pre-trial detention as law enforcement continues its investigation.
Next scheduled hearing is 5/19. Experts say there’s a good chance the period will be extended again; suspects can be held for a year. /1
The Wall Street Journal reported that at the hearing, Griner’s Russian attorney “challenged the legality of her detention and asked for a transfer to house arrest, arguing that she had been denied a lawyer and consular representation.” The U.S. State Department confirmed to ESPN that they had not consular access to Griner, as is required for all citizen detainees, but Griner’s request for a transfer was denied.
At the moment, Griner is reportedly in a cell with a bed that is too small for her, spending her time reading a book by Fyodor Dostoevsky and a Rolling Stones biography, according to TASS, a Russian state-news agency. Her Russian attorneys have indicated that Griner is doing “OK”.
As the legal process crawls along for Griner in Russia, perhaps the US government is considering a change in approach regarding the WNBA star. That the State Dept. even acknowledged Griner by name and noted that they had not been able to contact her could be a shift in strategy from the United States government, which has been quiet regarding Griner for most of the past month. However, press secretary Jen Psaki has said that Griner’s family has not signed the Privacy Act waiver to authorize the government to talk about her case.
Two other Americans, Paul Whelan and Trevor Reed, remain in Russian custody on what the US government calls false charges. Per reporting from T.J. Quinn of ESPN, it would be “politically difficult” to prioritize Griner over those two Marines, who have been in Russia for more than two years.
The Reed family told the Wall Street Journal that they hope Griner’s case brings renewed to attention to Paul’s and that the United States reconsiders a prisoner swap to bring all three Americans back home.
From what we have learned about the Russian legal process, that may be Griner’s best bet of a speedy return. For now, she remains stuck at the mercy of the Russian criminal justice system with no end to this nightmare in sight.