WNBA star Brittney Griner was found guilty of drug possession by a Russian court and sentenced Thursday to nine years in prison, closing a trial that drew national attention and reached the highest level of US diplomacy.
Why it matters: Griner’s conviction comes nearly six months after she was arrested at a Moscow airport in February when Russian authorities said they found a vape cartridge containing hash oil in her luggage.
Situation: During closing arguments Thursday, Russian prosecutors demanded that Griner be sentenced to 9.5 years in prison, the TSWT reported.
- “I made an honest mistake and I hope your ruling doesn’t end my life,” Griner said in her final comments to the court on Thursday, per TSWT.
- Griner’s legal team in Russia has vowed to appeal the verdict. Reuters reported.
- Judge Anna Sotnikova said Griner’s time in custody since February will count towards her sentence, according to the TSWT.
- The judge also fined Griner 1 million rubles, or about $16,700.
What they say: “Today US citizen Brittney Griner has been sentenced to prison that is another reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongly detaining Brittney,” President Biden said in a statement.
- “It is unacceptable and I call on Russia to release her immediately so that she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends and teammates,” Biden added.
- “This is a miscarriage of justice. The US State Department has determined that Ms. Griner has been wrongfully detained. Nothing in today’s decision changes that determination,” said Elizabeth Rood, deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Russia. in a statement. pronunciation.
- “We have made a serious proposal to the Russians to try and get Brittney and Paul Whelan – who were also wrongfully detained – home where they belong. And we once again urge Russians to seriously consider that proposal, act on it, and let’s get these two Americans home where they belong,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told MSNBC.
The big picture: Griner pleaded guilty to the charges last month but insisted there was “no intent” to break the law by bringing the vape cartridges to Russia.
- Griner’s lawyers told a Russian court last month that doctors in the US prescribed Griner medicinal cannabis for chronic pain two years ago.
- Griner testified last month that her rights had not been read when she was arrested and that she was told to sign documents without understanding what they meant.
US officials have maintained that Griner was “wrongly detained” by Russia.