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In our news wrap Thursday, American WNBA star Brittney Griner pleaded guilty in a Russian court to drug possession, Ukraine raised its national flag on Snake Island, Derek Chauvin was sentenced to 21 years in prison on federal charges, U.S. jobless claims rose to 235,000 last week, President Biden awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 17 people, and actor James Caan died at 82.
In the day's other news: American pro basketball star Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to drug possession today in Moscow. Griner was escorted into the courtroom in handcuffs and spoke through an interpreter to enter her plea.
The lawyer said she told the court the cannabis oil ended up in her luggage by accident.
Alexander Boykov, Attorney for Brittney Griner: She admitted that it was her purse, but she said that it was unintentionally brought to Russia, because she in a hurry as she was packing.
Griner faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted, but her lawyers say they hope that today's guilty plea will lead to leniency. She will be back in court again next Thursday.
Ukraine raised its national flag on Snake Island today, a strategic Black Sea outpost it recaptured from Moscow last week. Russia responded quickly to the symbolic gesture by firing missiles at the island. Meanwhile, Russian airstrikes continue to pound the east. The mayor of Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region said shelling hit the city center, leaving residents in panic.
Yurii, Kramatorsk Resident (through translator):
It was such a big explosion that my wife and I, who were sitting inside her home, felt everything fly up into the air. She got down on the floor and started crawling.
The explosion was so massive that all the windows shattered.
Despite its deadly air assault, analysts say that Russia has made few territorial gains in the east in recent days. Moscow says it is giving its troops time to rest.
Back in this country, Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer convicted of killing George Floyd, was sentenced to 21 years in prison on federal civil rights charges. Chauvin had pleaded guilty to violating Floyd's civil rights. He was already serving 22.5 years on state charges of murder and manslaughter.
The commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service has asked the Treasury Department's inspector general to launch a probe into the intensive tax audits of two former top FBI officials. Yesterday, The New York Times reported that the FBI's former Director James Comey and ex-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe were subjected to unusually extensive IRS audits of their returns.
Former President Donald Trump repeatedly lashed out at both during the Russia investigation.
In economic news, U.S. jobless claims rose to 235,000 last week. That's the most in nearly six months. That was up 4,000 from the previous week. The U.S. Labor Department also said that employers are advertising fewer positions after job openings hit a 20-year high in March.
Meanwhile, stocks rallied again on Wall Street today. The Dow Jones industrial average climbed 347 points to close at 31384. The Nasdaq rose 259 points and the S&P 500 added 57.
The Biden administration is giving out nearly $1 billion in grants to upgrade 85 of the nation's airports. The funds will come from the infrastructure bill that passed last year. They will renovate the International Terminal at Boston's Logan Airport, replace the baggage handling system at Denver International Airport, and build a new concourse at Dulles Airport outside Washington, D.C., among other things.
President Biden awarded the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, to 17 people today. At a White House ceremony, he paid tribute to each recipient, including former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, gymnast Simone Biles, and civil rights attorney Fred Gray.
President Joe Biden:
The cause of freedom shines like the sun to light up the future of the world. That's the soul of our nation. And that's who we are as Americans. And that's what we see, an extraordinary, extraordinary group of Americans up here on this stage.
President Biden himself received the Medal of Freedom back in 2017 from then-President Obama.
And a passing to note tonight. Famed actor James Caan has died after a rich career spanning six decades. Caan is perhaps best known as the hotheaded Sonny Corleone in the movie "The Godfather," a role that earned him an Oscar nomination. He made other notable appearances in "Brian's Song," "Las Vegas," and "Elf." Caan was 82 years old.
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