WNBA star Brittney Griner was discovered responsible and sentenced to 9 years in Russian jail Thursday for allegedly having a small quantity of hashish in vape cartridges packed in baggage she introduced by a Moscow airport earlier this 12 months.
Russian prosecutors requested the decide for a nine-and-a-half-year sentence for the Phoenix Mercury participant; she confronted as much as 10 years.
Any sentence, nonetheless, could be thrown out if American and Russian authorities struck a deal on a prisoner swap. Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed final week that the U.S. had put forth a “substantial offer,” reportedly suggesting that Griner and one other American prisoner, former Marine Paul Whelan, be exchanged for convicted Russian arms supplier Viktor Bout.
Griner pleaded responsible to costs of drug possession, however stated in court docket Thursday that she had made an trustworthy mistake and apologized for bringing “embarrassment” on her Russian teammates.
“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,” she added. Griner has been married to her spouse, Cherelle Griner, since 2019.
“I know everybody keeps talking about ‘political pawn’ and politics, but I hope that that is far from this courtroom,” she stated, in response to a number of retailers. “I want to say again that I had no intent of breaking Russian laws. I had no intent. I did not conspire or plan to commit this crime.”
President Joe Biden stated the sentence was “one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney.”
“It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates,” Biden stated in a press release. “My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”
Arms supplier Bout, who offered off massive portions of weapons after the autumn of the Soviet Union, is at present round midway by a 25-year sentence for allegedly collaborating in a conspiracy to kill People. He was finally captured in a sting operation in Thailand in 2008.
Griner was arrested in February whereas going by customs at Sheremetyevo Airport, outdoors of Moscow, for allegedly carrying 0.702 grams of cannabis oil, a product that accommodates hashish, in two vape cartridges. Days later, Russia invaded Ukraine. Griner’s arrest was introduced in early March, prompting considerations that her detention was largely political, and Blinken later declared her a wrongful detainee.
The 2-time Olympic gold medalist had been enjoying for Russia’s UMMC Ekaterinburg throughout the WNBA low season periodically since 2014, as girls’s basketball gamers are sometimes higher paid abroad than within the U.S.
In a handwritten letter to Biden that was additionally launched partly to media retailers in early July, Griner stated that she was “terrified” she would possibly by no means see the skin of a Russian jail. White Home press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre instructed reporters that Biden learn the letter and American officers have been “going to use every tool that we possibly can” to carry Griner dwelling.