Russian Court Upholds Brittney Griner’s 9-Year Prison Sentence

MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian court docket has upheld the nine-year jail sentence handed to American basketball star Brittney Griner for drug possession, rejecting her attraction.

Griner, an eight-time all-star middle with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was convicted Aug. 4 after police stated they discovered vape canisters containing hashish oil in her baggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

The Moscow area court docket dominated Tuesday to uphold the sentence. Within the ruling the court docket said, nevertheless, that the time Griner should serve in jail will probably be recalculated together with her time in pre-trial detention taken into consideration. Someday in pre-trial detention will probably be counted as 1.5 days in jail, so the basketball star should serve round eight years in jail.

Griner took half within the Moscow Regional Court listening to by way of video name from a penal colony outdoors Moscow the place she is imprisoned.

U.S. basketball participant Brittney Griner, who was sentenced to 9 years in a Russian penal colony in August for drug smuggling, is seen on a display by way of a video hyperlink from a jail forward of a court docket listening to Tuesday.

KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV by way of Getty Pictures

Griner’s February arrest got here at a time of heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington, simply days earlier than Russia despatched troops into Ukraine. On the time, Griner was returning to Russia, the place she performed throughout the U.S. league’s offseason.

Griner admitted she had the canisters in her baggage however testified that she inadvertently packed them in haste and had no prison intent. Her protection crew introduced written statements saying she had been prescribed hashish to deal with ache.

The nine-year sentence was near the utmost of 10 years, and Griner’s legal professionals argued after the conviction that the punishment was extreme. They stated in related circumstances defendants have acquired a mean sentence of about 5 years, with a few third of them granted parole.

Earlier than her conviction, the U.S. State Division declared Griner to be “wrongfully detained New Entry ” — a cost that Russia has sharply rejected.

Reflecting rising strain on the Biden administration to do extra to carry Griner house, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken took the bizarre step of unveiling publicly in July that Washington had made a “substantial proposal” to get Griner house, together with Paul Whelan, an American serving a 16-year sentence in Russia for espionage.

Blinken didn’t elaborate, however The Related Press and different information organizations have reported that Washington has provided to change Griner and Whelan for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms supplier who’s serving a 25-year sentence within the U.S. and as soon as earned the nickname the “merchant of death.”

The White Home stated it has not but acquired a productive response from Russia to the provide.

Russian diplomats have refused to touch upon the U.S. proposal and urged Washington to debate the matter in confidential talks, avoiding public statements.

In September, U.S. President Joe Biden met with Cherelle Griner, the spouse of Brittney Griner, in addition to the participant’s agent, Lindsay Colas. Biden additionally sat down individually with Elizabeth Whelan, Paul Whelan’s sister.

The White Home stated after the conferences that the president careworn to the households his “continued commitment to working through all available avenues to bring Brittney and Paul home safely.”

The U.S. and Russia carried out a prisoner swap in April. Moscow launched U.S. Marines veteran Trevor Reed in change for the U.S. releasing a Russian pilot, Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was convicted in a drug trafficking conspiracy.

Moscow additionally has pushed for the discharge of different Russians in U.S. custody.

One among them is Alexander Vinnik, who was accused of laundering billions of {dollars} by means of a bootleg cryptocurrency change. Vinnik was arrested in Greece in 2017 and extradited to the U.S. in August.

Vinnik’s French lawyer, Frederic Belot, instructed Russian newspaper Izvestia final month that his shopper hoped to be a part of a doable swap.

The newspaper speculated that one other doable candidate was Roman Seleznev, the son of a Russian lawmaker. He was sentenced in 2017 to 27 years in jail on expenses from a hacking and bank card fraud scheme.