Basketball Star's appeal over Russian Drug Charges Fails. 

Liz Filmer
31 Oct 2022

Brittney Griner's nine-year "drug smuggling" prison sentence was upheld in a Russian court on Tuesday, Oct. 25.

Though disheartening for Griner and her supporters, the ruling was expected mainly as Russian courts rarely overturn verdicts. Before the appeal, Griner's attorneys commented that she did not expect "any miracles to happen,".

The court upheld Griner's original sentence. However, it did decide to amend her time served. The court agreed that pre-trial detention should be taken into account. Every day she served whilst awaiting trial was equated to 1.5 days in prison. This has brought Griner's overall prison sentence down to roughly eight years. 

Griner's agent, Lindsay Colas, condemned the "disappointing, yet unsurprising" ruling. She stated that Griner's sentence is "regarded as harsh and extreme even by Russia's own legal standards, she is being held hostage simply because she is American."

"We call on all people, fellow Americans, along with the global sports community, to unite in their support for BG and President Biden's efforts to do what is necessary to rescue her; we must support the use of all available tools to secure the safe return of BG and all Americans"- Lindsay Colas.

Griner will have to complete her sentence unless the United States can negotiate her release. In July, the U.S offered Russia a trade-off involving Griner and another incarcerated American, U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, in a swap for a convicted Russian arms dealer. However, negotiations have not progressed.

In August, Griner was tried and found guilty of "smuggling cannabis vape cartridges" into Russia. The WNBA player was sentenced to nine years in prison and fined 1 million rubles. The initial verdict happened during intensified pressures between the U.S. and Russia during the early days of the Ukraine invasion. After the weeks-long trial ended, President Joe Biden released a statement demanding Griner and Whelan's release. 

Griner's wife, Cherelle Griner, recently stated that Griner was struggling and was at her weakest right now. Cherelle also worried that if Griner's appeal failed, she would be shipped to a Russian labour camp.

 In a statement issued before Tuesday's appeal hearing, her representatives said that the WNBA star recognised that public force on Washington would play a vital role in any possible release.

"Brittney is [a] very strong person and has a champion's character," stated Griner's lawyers. Griner also addressed her supporters in the statement: "Thank you all for fighting so hard to get me home. All your support and love are helping me."

Liz Filmer