Family, its your favorite queer radio personality Anna DeShawn with our queer news for today. Now, I want to make you a promise. We will continue to bring you the latest in queer news, culture and politics: 7 minutes a day, 5 days a week. So, if you are digging our intersectional take on the daily, consider joining the QCrew.
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Now for the news. BG has been wrongfully detained for 161 days and there have been a few big developments. Yesterday, she testified on her behalf, Secretary of State Blinken confirmed a trade is on the table & Time Magazine has put Brittney on the cover. Let’s talk about it all, let’s go!
For today, I want to give Brittney all of our time as there were quite a few developments yesterday and it’s worth digging into. To set the stage, she walked into court with a black long-sleeved Phoenix Mercury shirt on and was escorted in handcuffs to the defendants’ cage. That’s what they call it. It looks like a long narrow holding cell and that’s where she sits during trial. Her lawyers sit right in front of her and in front of her lawyers are members of the media who have been approved to be there snapping pictures and taking video before the hearing begins. It’s during this time that she put up a transparent folder which had pictures of her family inside. A reminder of the people that love her that she can keep close. She needed their strength yesterday too because she testified on her own behalf and provided lots of insight on her experience at the Moscow airport on that faithful February 17th.
BG’s defense has been underway for the last few weeks. They started with character witnesses from her basketball team; her Russian basketball club director, the team’s head physician and her teammate/captain all spoke to what Brittney means to their team. They all spoke positively about her impact personally & professionally. Next, her lawyers presented evidence that Brittney has a medical marijana clearance from her attending physician due to a chronic injury. This permission was issued on behalf of the Arizona Department of Health. Her defense went on to submit tests from anti-doping checks which didn’t detect any prohibited substances in her system. This leads us to yesterday where she testified on her own behalf. BG testified that at the Moscow airport after inspectors found the cartridges she was never read her rights and she was mandated to sign documents that she couldn’t read and the translator couldn’t translate fast enough. So she really didn’t know what they meant. She said, “I remember one time there was a stack of papers that [the translator] needed to translate for me. He took a brief look and then said the exact words were, ‘Basically you are guilty,'” she said. Wow.
Now prosecutors asked BG whether she admitted to the crime. This is a key factor used by Russian courts to determine leniency in sentencing. I mean this is why she pled guilty early on in this trial, in hopes the Russian court would take that into consideration when it came to sentencing. Let us not forget she’s facing up to 10 years in prison. Okay so the prosecutors asked whether she admitted to the crime. BG said, “As they ended up in my bags by accident, I take responsibility, but I did not intend to smuggle or plan to smuggle [banned substances] to Russia,” she said. Griner testified that a doctor had prescribed the cannabis oil to treat pain and inflammation that resulted from sports injuries. She said many athletes used it. She went on to say, “I had no intention to break the law… I rushed packing and stressed packed… I was in a huge hurry.” It’s also come to light that during this same time she was recovering from COVID-19 as well. Geesh. Her defense team believes the trial will be over by the beginning of August which leads me to talk about Secretary of State Blinken’s comments yesterday. Let’s take a listen.
This is the very first time Secretary of State Blinken has actually spoken Brittney’s name. He’s answered questions in the past but has been playing this pretty close to the vest. Well not anymore. We know that a swap for BG & Whelan cannot happen until BG’s trial is complete. Until there is a conviction, which is just a foregone conclusion at this point. We’re all just waiting for the trial to end and for a sentence to be handed down.
For this swap, I’ve shared in the past about Viktor Bout “The Merchant of Death” who has been at the center of the conversation around a swap. Russia has wanted him for years and in this moment they have a lot of leverage because we are looking to get two people back home to their families. You may not know a lot about Paul Whelan but essentially he’s a U.S. citizen, former Marine and business man who was arrested in Moscow in December 2018. He was found guilty of espionage after a secret trial with secret evidence and sentenced to 16 years in a hard labor prison camp. He vehemently denies all of the charges against him and his family has been trying to get him back home. Well maybe it can happen now. The U.S. has named him as wrongfully detained as well.
So as we wait to see how all of this unfolds we will continue to share BG’s story. We will continue to push to get her home. She doesn’t deserve what’s happening to her period. I don’t need to read off her resume y’all know her credits which are none bigger than her being an Olympian. I will say we can see the media coverage picking up as well which is evidenced by the latest Time magazine cover that just dropped which features artwork by Lorna Simpson. When you see it you’ll be taken aback a bit because its very abstract but once I learned about Lorna’s work I got it. I got it and I want to end with a word from her on it’s meaning. She said, “For me, the strong impression of this image of Griner is not only what could be interpreted as the solemnity of her expression but also the symmetry of the star tattoos on her shoulders…The inversion of the illustration is a way of “bringing into focus how much of her life has been upended, the urgency of her release and safe return to the U.S., and the preciousness of time that is passing.” Family, because time is a commodity we can never get back. Till tomorrow, peace.
U.S. offers deal to Russia to free Brittney Griner as she testifies in Moscow