Brittney Griner Sentenced 9 Years in Prison

Stephen Andrews
05 Aug 2022

US basketball star Brittney Griner has been sentenced to nine years in prison on cannabis-related charges. The Russian court convicted her of smuggling and possessing narcotics. The prosecution had sought a nine-and-a-half year term in prison. In July, Grinner pleaded guilty to drug smuggling charges, however, she denied intent to break the law.

The double Olympic winner has admitted possessing cannabis oil, but told the court she had made an "honest mistake". 

"I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling, that it doesn't end my life here," Griner said in court on Thursday, August 4, before breaking down in tears.

Griner, 31, was detained at a Moscow airport in February this year for carrying vape cartridges containing hash oil in her luggage. 

As she was being led out of the courtroom on Thursday in handcuffs, she was heard saying "I love my family."

After reading the verdict, the presiding judge noted that the American had already been in detention for a significant amount of time.

Griner's lawyers said the verdict was "absolutely unreasonable" and they are to appeal. Her defence team said the court had ignored all evidence that was presented, as well as Griner's guilty plea.

Griner's defence lawyer Maria Blagovolina said her client was "very upset, very stressed".

"She can hardly talk. It's a difficult time for her. When we saw Brittney on Tuesday, we told her, 'See you on Thursday'. She said, 'See you on doomsday'. So it looks like she was right."

The White House called for the immediate release of Griner, with US President Joe Biden describing the sentencing as "unacceptable."

"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," he said in a statement.

"It's unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates."

Griner's sentencing could lead to a U.S.-Russia prisoner swap that would include the A-list basketball player and an imprisoned Russian who was once a prolific arms dealer. 

President Biden has been held under huge pressure to bring home Americans held in Russia. As he called on Russia to free Griner immediately he also said his administration would continue to work for her release.

Stephen Andrews