Brittney Griner's Wife Breaks Silence On WNBA Star's 9-Year Prison Sentence

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Cherelle Griner said her wife, WNBA star Brittney Griner, is "at her absolute weakest moment in life now" in her first interview since a Russian court handed down the basketball player's prison sentence.

In August, Brittney was sentenced to nine years in Russian prison after pleading guilty to drug charges.

Cherelle opened up to CBS Mornings co-host Gayle King this week about the toll the sentence has taken on her and her wife.

"On its face it just seems like my wife is a hostage," Cherelle told King. "To know that our government and the foreign government is sitting down and negotiating for her release? She’s a hostage."

The interview comes weeks before Brittney and her legal team will appeal her sentence before a Russian court. The court handed down the sentence after Russian authorities allegedly found cannabis-derived vape cartridges in her bag at a Moscow airport.

The Phoenix Mercury guard, who was in Russia to play for the country's basketball team during the off-season, admitted to "inadvertently" packing the cannabis, which her lawyers said was prescribed by a doctor.

Cherelle said she believes "a crime should warrant a punishment," but that "it must be balanced."

"It tears me to pieces to see that this is not balanced for my wife right now," she told King during the interview.

The couple has spoken twice on the phone since the WNBA star's detainment, but their most recent conversation was "the most disturbing phone call I'd ever experienced," Cherelle said.

"You could hear that she was not okay," she explained, noting that she was unsure if Brittney had "anything left in her tank to continue to wake up every day and be in a place where she has no one."

As her appeal hearing looms, Cherelle said Brittney is "at her absolute weakest moment in life now."

"She’s very afraid about being left and forgotten in Russia or just completely used to the point of her detriment, because she’s like, you know, saying things to me like, 'my life just don’t even matter no more,'" she told King.

“The reality of the situation is that once that hearing is held and the order is finalized, [she's] now in the position where she could be moved to a labor camp. And, I — my brain can’t even fathom it," Cherelle added.

After an in-person meeting with President Joe Biden, Cherelle believes he is "doing what he can" to bring Brittney home, but her release will ultimately come down to Putin's cooperation, she said.

"I feel like at this point it’s going to take Putin to have that same mindset and say, 'you know what, Brittney Griner, who came to my country for seven, eight years, and helped my country be recognized through sport, paid taxes in my country, helped my country. I’m going to sit at a table, and I’m going to be clear about what I need in return for her release so that we can actually get a meeting of the minds between these two governments,'" Cherelle told King.

CNN reported in July that the U.S. had offered to exchange Brittney and fellow jailed American Paul Whelan for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year prison sentence.

According to reports, Russia said it was ready to discuss the possibility of a prisoner swap after Brittney's sentencing, but U.S. officials have said the Russians haven't presented a serious counteroffer.

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