September 24, 2022

Now, Griner is back at the detention center where she was held during her week-long trial as her lawyers vow to appeal the sentence and the Biden administration tries to negotiate her release.

During the trial, Griner pleaded guilty to carrying less than 1 gram of cannabis oil in her luggage as she traveled through a Moscow airport on February 17. He testified in court that he was aware of Russia’s strict drug laws and had no intention of bringing cannabis into the country, saying he was in a hurry and “to relieve stress”.

Her lawyers had hoped that Griner’s guilty plea and expressions of remorse would lead to a lighter sentence. He faced 10 years on the charges, and prosecutors asked for a 9.5-year sentence. In addition to her nine-year sentence, Griner must pay a fine of 1 million rubles, which is about $16,400.

“I made an honest mistake and I hope in your decision that my life doesn’t end here,” Griner told the court before the verdict. “I know everyone keeps talking about political pawns and politics, but I hope that’s far away from this courtroom.”

The US State Department has designated Griner as an unlawful detainer. The Biden administration has offered to exchange a convicted Russian arms dealer for Griner and another American prisoner, Paul Whelan, CNN previously reported.
After the verdict, Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, he tweeted“Today’s sentencing of Brittney Griner was severe by Russian legal standards and proves what we’ve known all along, that Brittney is being used as a political pawn.”
In a statement, President Joe Biden said the sentence was “unacceptable” and called for her to be returned to the US to be reunited with her family.

Here’s what’s next for Griner as she awaits her lawyers’ appeal and the US continues to negotiate her release.

Lawyers will appeal the “absurd” verdict

Griner’s legal team will appeal the court’s decision, which they must do within 10 days of the verdict, according to her lawyers, Alexander Boykov and Maria Blagovolina, who is a partner at the law firm Rybalkin, Gortsunyan, Dyakin and Partners.

“We are very disappointed with the verdict. As legal professionals, we believe that the court should be fair to everyone regardless of nationality. The court completely ignored all the defense evidence and most importantly, the guilty plea,” they said in a statement.

They called the verdict “absolutely absurd” and persisted in declaring that the ruling was “contrary to existing legal practice” in Russia.

Test of Substance in Brittney Griner's Vapor Cartridges Violated Russian Law, Defense Expert Says

Blagovolina told reporters that the average prison term for this type of crime is five years, adding that almost a third of those convicted are paroled.

During the trial, attorneys argued that Griner’s detention was mishandled. Griner testified that she was made to sign documents she did not fully understand and that she was not given adequate translations of the documents into the Russian language.

A defense expert also testified that the examination of the vapor cartridges containing the hemp oil was not in accordance with Russian law.

The US offered a prisoner exchange for Griner’s return

Last week, CNN reported that the Biden administration had proposed a prisoner swap, offering to swap a convicted Russian arms dealer for Griner and Whelan. Whelan, a US citizen and former Marine, was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2018 on espionage charges after a trial the US said was unfair.

After Griner’s conviction, National Security Council Coordinator John Kirby said it was “up to the Russian side” whether the conviction would open the door to prisoner exchange negotiations.

Joe Biden called Brittney Griner's sentence
After the U.S. proposed a prisoner swap, Russia countered by demanding the release of convicted murderer Vadim Krashikov as well, multiple sources familiar with the discussions told CNN. The US did not consider the counter a legitimate proposal, in part because the request was made through an unofficial backchannel.

Kirby reiterated Thursday that the U.S. position remains that they want Russia to “get the deal on the table because it’s good, it’s fair, and it’s going to help bring Paul (Whelan) and Britney home.”

While US officials have long opposed prisoner trades, the successful release of Trevor Reed, an American and former Marine imprisoned in Russia, drew bipartisan praise from lawmakers and was seen as a political victory for the Biden administration.

Her family and supporters continue to fight for her return

The trade proposal follows months of pressure from Griner’s family and members of the basketball community.

The star’s wife, Cherelle Griner, has been outspoken about her desire for US officials to take more meaningful action to bring her wife home. Days after Cherelle Griner expressed her frustration in an interview with CNN, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris called her to assure her they were committed to securing her wife’s release, according to a White House source. call reading.

Griner also had the steadfast support of her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury, as well as other members of the basketball community.

Before the start of a game Thursday night between the Mercury and Connecticut Sun, members of the two teams joined hands at center court and held a 42-second moment of silence for Griner, who wears 42 on her jersey. After it was over, people in the crowd started chanting, “Bring her home! Bring her home!”

CNN’s Allie Malloy, Chris Liakos, Natasha Bertrand, Frederik Pleitgen, Eric Levenson, Dakin Andone, Travis Caldwell, Jill Martin, Betsy Klein, Kate Sullivan and MJ Lee contributed to this report.

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