December 1, 2023

WNBA star Brittney Griner was found guilty of drug trafficking and possession of cannabis charges in a Russian court on Thursday and sentenced to nine years in prison. She was also fined 1,000,000 Russian rubles, which is just over $16,000.

They were prosecutors asking for a 9.5-year prison sentence for Griner. The verdict comes after a month-long trial.

“Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is yet another reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney.” President Biden said in a statement. “It is unacceptable and I call on Russia to release her immediately to be with her wife, loved ones, friends and teammates.

“My government will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every avenue possible to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”

Griner was was arrested at a Moscow airport in February for having cannabis oil vaping cartridges in her luggage in February.

During closing arguments Wednesday, more than six months after her initial arrest, the 31-year-old WNBA star told the judge she “never intended to break any law.”

“I know everyone keeps talking about ‘political pawn’ and ‘politics,’ but I hope that’s far from this room,” Griner said as she addressed the court Wednesday.

In July before her trial, the US State Department argued that Griner was “unlawfully detained. As a result, the United States placed her case under the supervision of its Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken contacted Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov last week in what CBS News referred to as an “extraordinary move” and asked him to accept an exchange of Griner and Paul Whelan, who is an American currently imprisoned in Russia on charges related to an espionage conviction.

According to CBS News“people familiar with the proposal” say Griner and Whelan would be traded to notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout.

A prisoner exchange is still not out of the question now that Griner has been found guilty.

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