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Wife says WNBA star Brittney Griner vowed to her in letters from Russian prison, "I won't let them break me."

Brittany Griner Moscow's trial starts Friday
Moscow trial of WNBA star Brittney Griner to start 02:07

Distraught, handcuffed and heading for the fight of her life, WNBA star Brittney Griner was last seen Monday as she went to stand trial in a Russian courtroom. As she walked past news cameras, a reporter asked her how she was doing. The American just shook her head.

The two-time Olympic gold medallist and center for the Phoenix Mercury was arrested at a Moscow airport on February 17, just one week before Russia invaded Ukraine.

She has been charged with smuggling and transporting cannabis after authorities found vape cartridges allegedly containing hashish oil in her luggage.

TOPSHOT - US WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on June 27, 2022. - Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and WNBA champion, was detained at Moscow airport in February on charges of carrying in her luggage vape cartridges with cannabis oil, which could carry a 10-year prison sentence. KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images

Griner's wife Cherelle told the Reverend Al Sharpton on his radio show that she hasn't heard her voice since, but shared that Griner has conveyed to her through letters that she is "struggling and terrified." 

"I won't let them break me," Griner said in the letters, according to Cherelle. "I know they're trying to, but I'm going to do my best to just hold on until I can get home."

"I hope that that's quick," said Cherelle, "because I'm not okay."

Russia expert Jeff Hawn told CBS News that Russia is effectively holding Griner "hostage."

"It's very clear that they did not need to bring the severity of charges as they did," he told D'Agata. "They chose to do that in order to grab the U.S. attention and threaten her with the worst possible outcome." 

U.S. to increase its military presence in Europe 02:14

Russian media outlets have speculated that Griner could be used as a bargaining chip in a possible prisoner swap for notorious Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout. The so-called "Merchant of Death" is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence in the U.S. for conspiracy to kill Americans and aiding a terrorist organization.

Supporters of Griner held a vigil outside the Russian consulate in New York this week, praying that Moscow and Washington might find some agreement to bring Griner back home.

Sentencing is not expected when the trial gets back underway on Friday. If she is eventually convicted, however, Griner could face 10 years in prison.

The prospects of an acquittal are grim: Russian prosecutors have a 99% success rate.

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