Brittney Griner Sentenced to 9 Years in Russian Prison

Jaelani Turner-Williams Jaelani Turner-Williams is a contributing news writer for Okayplayer with…
Brittney Griner
Photo Credit: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images

WNBA player Brittney Griner has been sentenced to 9 years in prison after being found guilty of illegal drug smuggling at a Russian airport.

Brittney Griner has been sentenced to 9 years in prison following a month-long trial in Russia, per The New York Times. Griner’s defense team responded with calling the verdict “absolutely unreasonable” adding, “we will certainly file an appeal.”

The cannabis smuggling trial of Griner concluded with final arguments on Thursday (August 4). Russian prosecutors asked that the WNBA player receive a sentencing and conviction of 9 1/2 years nearly six months after Griner’s arrest at Sheremetyevo International Airport on February 17.

According to Associated Press, the 31-year-old made a final appeal in court on Thursday, calling the arrest  “an honest mistake under stress,” and adding “hope in your ruling it does not end my life.”

“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,” Griner said. “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.”

Under Russian law, Griner faces up to 10 years in prison, but officials have discussed the potential of a prison swap, sending Griner and another jailed American, Paul Whelan, back to the United States. The swap will be in exchange for convicted Russian arms trafficker, Viktor Bout.

At the time of Griner’s February 17 arrest, the basketball player was carrying vape cartridges with cannabis oil in her luggage. Her lawyer, Maria Blagovolina, said that Griner suffers from injuries sustained throughout her career, only using the substance in Arizona where medical marijuana is legal. Blagovolina also argued that Griner was packing in haste, and had no intention of using marijuana in Russia. Blagovolina also asked the court to acquit Griner, explaining that she has no past criminal record and praising her recent career in “the development of Russian basketball.”

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