Basketball star Brittney Griner was sentenced to 9 years in a Russian prison in a Moscow courtroom on Thursday. She was convicted on drug charges and the case has deepened tensions between Putin and the United States.
Griner pleaded guilty last month to charges that carry a maximum sentence of 10 years. She made a final plea for leniency on Thursday with emotion. The basketball star apologized and repeated that she never intended to break any Russian laws. She made an “honest” mistake.
After a few hours of deliberation, Judge Anna Sotnikova returned to announce she had been found guilty of drug possession and smuggling. Griner faces 9 years in prison as well as a 1 million ruble ($16,590) fine. The verdict can be appealed.
Now there will be great attention on the possibility of a prisoner sway between the two countries.
President Joe Biden said today in a statement, “Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney.”
The president continued, “It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates. My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”
Griner’s lawyer said that Brittany was “very disappointed,” and he said the team was “very suprised by the verdict.”
Her lawyers wrote in a statement, “The court completely ignored all the evidence of the defense, and most importantly, the guilty plea.”
Griner was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February. Russian authorities said they found vape canisters with cannabis oil in her luggage.
Brittany is a center for the Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist. She admitted the canisters were hers and said she took them to Russia unintentionally after packing her luggage in a hurry.
Moscow is being accused of using Griner as a political pawn.
President Biden, the next move is yours.