A Russian court sentenced WNBA star Brittney Griner to nine years in prison Thursday, an expected conclusion to her trial that should allow negotiations for a prisoner swap to accelerate.
Sources close to Griner said he had expected a harsh sentence for bringing cannabis into the country on Feb. 17. Nevertheless, she and her supporters knew that Russia would not move forward with a trade that could bring her home until after her trial had ended. Despite Russian law, Griner pleaded guilty on July 7 after a foregone verdict was considered inevitable.
Griner’s intentional violation of the law was found by Judge Anna Sotnikova during sentencing. Prosecutors had asked for a 9½-year sentence.
Sotnikova said the time Griner has served in custody since her arrest in February would count toward the sentence.
Griner reacted to the sentence with little emotion, listening to the verdict with a blank stare on her face.
Lawyers for Griner’s defense said they would appeal. According to the defense team, the court ignored Griner’s guilty plea and all evidence presented to it when sentencing him.
Upon learning of the verdict, President Joe Biden called for Griner’s release and said she had been wrongfully detained.
“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,” Biden said. “It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates.”
Outside the court, the U.S. Embassy’s chargé d’affaires Elizabeth Rood called the verdict “a miscarriage of justice.
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