Brittney Griner was convicted in her drug smuggling trial and sentenced to nine years in Russian prison on Thursday.
She was also fined one million rubles, or $16,700 US dollars.
According to experts, the sentencing was a formality and is a step closer to any possible prisoner swap between the US and Russia.
Griner pleaded to the judge that she never meant to break the law: “I did not conspire or plan to commit this crime.”
Griner didn’t have much of a reaction to the verdict, as she listened with a blank stare on her face.
“I want to apologize to my teammates,” Griner said. “This is my second home and all I wanted to do was just win championships and make them proud…I hope in your ruling it does not end my life.”
As she was led out of the court room, she said: “I love my family.”
While the harsh sentence was expected, Griner’s lawyers said the court ignored the evidence presented and US Embassy’s charge d’affaires, Elizabeth Rood, called the verdict “a miscarriage of justice.”
President Joe Biden released a statement saying, “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.”
Griner’s lawyers plan to appeal the judge’s decision as the US continues to push for a prisoner swap.
The most recent trade discussion was centered around sending ‘Merchant of Death’ in arms dealer Viktor Bout to Russia in exchange for Griner and former US Marine Paul Whelan, who’s serving a 16 year sentenced for alleged espionage.
Then there were reports that Russia mentioned the US should include Russian murderer Vadim Krasikov, which was not received well on the American side of things.
With a verdict reached on the 168th day of her wrongful detainment, BG will continue to be on the minds of her supporters and loved ones as the fight continues to bring her home.
Griner, 31, was arrested on February 17th at Sheremetyevo International Airport outside of Moscow for what prosecutors allege was two cartridges containing 0.252 grams and 0.45 grams of hashish, or cannabis, oil.
Her lawyers showed evidence that Griner was using the cannabis for chronic pain from her lengthy athletic career and even presented a letter from her doctor.
As we await a potential appeal from Griner’s defense, an accelerated discussion of a prisoner swap is the focus.