Texas-Bred Basketball Star Brittney Griner Found Guilty In Russian Court
After months of drama and calls for her release, WNBA star Brittney Griner, originally from Houston, who has won two Olympic gold medals with the U.S., a WNBA championship with the Mercury, and a national championship at Baylor, received her verdict in a trial that has her in the center of attention in a deeper geo-political battle.
Brittney Griner sentenced to 9 years in Russian prison for drug charges.
According to multiple reports from ESPN and CBS News, a Russian court convicted Griner of drug possession and drug smuggling and sentenced her to nine years in prison Thursday, an expected conclusion to her trial that should allow negotiations for a prisoner swap to accelerate. She was also fined one million rubles, the equivalent of about $16,400.
Griner Has Been In Jail In Russia Since February
Russian prosecutors asked for a 9 and 1/2 year sentence for Griner, who expected a heavy sentence according to those close to her. During sentencing, Judge Anna Sotnikova said she had found that Griner intentionally broke the law. The judge also told Griner that the time she has served in custody since her arrest would count toward the sentence.
Griner's Verdict Could Now Begin Political Negotiations.
U.S. officials said last week that they have offered a deal for Griner's return, and sources have said the deal would trade convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for Griner and fellow American Paul Whelan, who has been in Russian custody since being arrested on espionage charges in December 2018.
President Biden issued 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. 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,"
Russia was not going to move forward with a trade that could bring her home until her trial was completed. A guilty verdict was always considered a forgone conclusion, and Griner pleaded guilty July 7, though the case continued under Russian law.
Griner Apologized For Her Actions
Griner said that she made "an honest mistake" when she brought vape cartridges containing oils derived from cannabis into a Moscow airport back in February and apologized.
"I want to apologize to my teammates, my club, my fans and the city of (Yekaterinburg) for my mistake that I made and the embarrassment that I brought on them, I want to also apologize to my parents, my siblings, the Phoenix Mercury organization back at home, the amazing women of the WNBA, and my amazing spouse back at home."