WNBA star Brittney Griner’s legal nightmare in Russia only got worse

After more than four months in detention in Russia, Brittney Griner now faces a wider legal battle. The WNBA player was arrested in February after Moscow airport authorities found cannabis vape cartridges in Griner’s luggage, according to CBS News. Possession of the substance – which is illegal in Russia – could see Griner face nearly 10 years in prison.

Despite pleas from Griner’s wife, Cherelle, and American politicians, the athlete remained in detention with no promise of release. Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was among those calling for Griner’s freedom. She tweeted an article detailing Griner’s arrest and which included the message “Free Brittney.”

Since her arrest, Griner’s detention has been extended several times, according to Yahoo. According to the outlet, the extension grants Russian prosecutors additional time to gather evidence but also delays Griner’s release. And while the US is classifying Griner as a “wrongfully detained” citizen, her legal debacle has only worsened.

Brittney Griner’s sentence has been extended again

During a preliminary hearing on June 27, a Russian court extended WNBA player Brittney Griner’s detention for a fourth time. According to the Associated Press, Griner will remain in custody for another six months. As such, the Phoenix Mercury player will remain in prison for the duration of her trial, which is set to begin on July 1.

The scale of Griner’s legal troubles was messy from the start. In May, Russian news outlets reported that the government would release Griner in exchange for Viktor Bout, a Russian entrepreneur who is currently being convicted in the US. “Discussions are ongoing to swap Bout for Griner,” a source revealed. However, chief negotiator Roger Carstens declined to comment on the rumored deal via Yahoo.

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Following news of Griner’s sentence extension, fans took to social media to express their support for the basketball player. “Free Brittney this is absolutely ridiculous,” one person tweeted. While another wrote: “This is so awful. I feel so bad for her. This is literally one of the best female athletes in the whole world.”

Brittney Griner has tried 11 times to call her wife

There is no doubt that Brittney Griner’s loved ones are doing everything they can to ensure her safe return home. According to MSNBC, Griner’s partner Cherelle has repeatedly asked to speak to President Joe Biden, but he has not yet spoken to her on the phone. As if that wasn’t enough, Griner has tried 11 times to call her wife through the US Embassy in Russia, but so far to no avail.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Cherelle admitted she’s at wit’s end. She said: “I find it unacceptable and I have no faith in our government at the moment. If I can’t trust you to take an after hours call on a Saturday, how can I trust you to actually negotiate on my wife’s behalf? return home? Because that’s a much bigger request than getting a Saturday call.”

To make matters worse, the State Department’s excuses on the matter aren’t helping the situation either.

Brittney Griner’s family cannot reach her

In response to Cherelle Griner’s failed efforts to reach her partner, Brittney Griner, the State Department issued a statement, which said (via MSNBC), “We deeply regret that due to a logistical error, Brittney Griner was unable to speak to her wife. However, White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan insists that Brittney’s case has the “President’s fullest attention” and that President Joe Biden is doing everything possible to bring her home, as described by The Hill. “We are actively working to find a resolution to this case and will do so without pause until we get Brittney home safely,” Sullivan added.

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Despite this, Brittney’s friends, family and colleagues are still fighting for her release, hoping her message gets through loud and clear. Fellow WNBA Breanna Stewart tweeted on June 27, “It has been 130 days since our friend Brittney Griner was unjustly detained in Russia. It’s time for her to return home. @WhiteHouse @potus @vp we’re watching and we’re counting on you,” while tennis legend Billie Jean King added, “It’s time to do something for Brittney Griner. A broad coalition of civil and human rights organizations is urging @WhiteHouse officials to get her home quickly and safely.” When Griner gets home remains to be seen, but it’s safe to say her loved ones won’t stop fighting, until she’s back on American soil.