- WNBA star Brittney Griner was sentenced to 9 years in a Russian prison on Thursday.
- He had been in custody since February and charged with drug smuggling to Russia.
- Her lawyer said she was “devastated” and “unable to speak” and that they plan to appeal.
WNBA star Brittney Griner was “devastated” after being sentenced to nine years in prison in Russia, her lawyers said.
In an interview after a Moscow judge handed down her sentence, the lawyer for Griner’s legal team, Maria Blagovolina, said they expected only half of the sentence.
Griner, who is also a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was arrested in Russia in late February when customs officials at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport said they found vapor cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage.
Her sentence was nearly the maximum for the drug-trafficking charge, which can carry up to ten years.
“She’s very upset, very stressed,” Maria Blagovolina, one of Griner’s lawyers, he told reporters after listening. “He can hardly speak. It’s a difficult time for her.”
Blagovolina he similarly told People: “She’s devastated. She’s very upset and honestly quite shocked, so she has to digest what happened today.”
Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, another of Griner’s lawyers, told People that Griner’s nine-year sentence was almost twice what they expected. They intend to appeal, Bloomberg and DailyMail.com mentionted.
Griner changed her plea to guilty in July, more than four months after her arrest, in an apparent move for leniency that has largely gone unheeded.
She had steeled herself, Blagovolina said, telling reporters that Griner had referred to the day of her sentencing as “the day of fate.” Russian courts have a 99 percent conviction rate, and experts told Insider’s Meredith Cash ahead of Griner’s hearings that hers likely already had a “preordained” outcome.
President Joe Biden called Griner’s sentence “unacceptable.” Last week his administration proposed a prisoner swap, offering Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms dealer, for Griner and former US Marine Paul Whelan.
The White House said the Kremlin responded with a counteroffer that included another convict, describing it as “a bad faith attempt to avoid a very serious offer and proposal that the United States has made.”
a US official said People on Thursday they were “still waiting” for Russia to respond to the original offer, while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov he said on Friday that Russia was “ready to discuss” the proposal but only through private diplomatic channels.
Griner’s attorneys told People that she was unable to speak to any friends or family, including her wife Cherelle, after the sentencing, but that she had “permission” to do so and hoped for a call next week.
Video from ESPN showed Griner’s team, the Phoenix Mercury, and their rivals, the Connecticut Sun holding 42 seconds moment of silence for Griner – a nod to her jersey number – during their game on Thursday.