Since Russian authorities arrested her in the Moscow airport in February, we have been tensely waiting to find out what the final verdict will be for WNBA superstar Brittney Griner. The two-time Olympic champion went on trial in Russia for having a couple of vape cartridges with cannabis oil in her suitcase. Finally, the court made their decision: Nine years in prison.
Brittney Griner Charged With Nine Years In Russian Prison
Earlier today, American basketball wonder woman Brittney Griner received her sentence after being put on trial for drug possession in Russia. The courts have decided that her transgression deserves nine years behind bars. This is one year shy of the maximum 10 years she could have received, however, it is also four years more than what Russians usually receive for possessing small amounts of a drug. She will also have to pay a fine of 1 million rubles (about $21,000). (1)
President Joe Biden has denounced the sentencing and called it “unacceptable”. He has called on Russia to release the eight-time WNBA all-star immediately. All of this is happening while tensions between Russia and the United States continue to increase because of the war in Ukraine. President Biden has promised that he will continue to work to get Brittney Griner home as quickly as possible. This comes after much controversy when Griner’s coach said that if were she a famous male athlete, she would already be home.
“I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates,” he said.
Russian authorities detained Griner on February 17 of this year. They did so because they found a couple of vape cartridges that had a small amount of cannabis oil in them. Griner allegedly uses cannabis to manage pain from chronic injuries and has a prescription from her doctor. (2)
According to Russian law, Griner has 10 days to appeal the sentence. Her lawyers have said that they expect a hearing in Moscow regional court next week. Griner’s agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas tweeted saying that, even by Russian standards, the sentencing was severe. She also said that it confirms “what they’ve known all along, that Brittney is being used as a political pawn”.
Brittney Griner Completely Distraught
Griner’s attorney Maria Blagovolina said that the basketball player was so stressed and upset she could barely talk. It has been understandably an incredibly difficult time for her as she deals with horrible prison conditions, a very public trial, and being separated from her wife. Before the court announced the verdict, she made a public apology to her family and Russian teammates for her “mistake” and for causing them any embarrassment and stress.
“I hope in your ruling it does not end my life.” she said in a cracking voice.
Though she did plead guilty to bringing the two cartridges into the country, she said that her intention was never to break a law. It was a mere error while quickly packing before her flight. Griner also said that the whole process at the airport was very confusing. They did not inform her of her rights, nor did they provide her with proper translation. The translator, she said, only told her half of what was actually being said or of what was going on. They then told her to sign documents without providing her with an accurate or sufficient translation to understand what she was signing.
Her lawyers showed the evidence that Griner’s only use for the oil was to manage pain from chronic injuries and that she does in fact have a medical prescription for them. She did say she was aware that it was not allowed in the country but she was not trying to smuggle drugs into Russia. It was simply an accidental error.
There has been talk of President Biden doing a prisoner swap to bring not only Brittney Griner home, but also another American prisoner in Russia who has been wrongfully detained. The issue is that apparently, Russia is asking for notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is currently imprisoned in the United States. He is serving a 25-year sentence for terrorism in America. None of this, however, has been confirmed. We will have to wait for Brittney Griner’s appeal and hope that the American government can do something to get her back on American soil.
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