A Russian court has sentenced Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) star Brittney Griner to nine and a half years in jail on Thursday August 4, a normal end to her preliminary that ought to permit talks for a detainee trade to speed up.
Griner, who was arrested on February 17, 2022 for carrying weed (cannabis) into the country, had been arranged for a serious sentence. She and her supporters have also known that Russia wouldn’t push ahead with an exchange that could bring her home until her trial was ended. A liable decision was viewed as an inevitable outcome, and Griner conceded July 7, however the case went on under Russian regulation.
During sentencing, Judge Anna Sotnikova said she had found that Griner purposefully overstepped the law and furthermore fined her 1 million rubles (about $16,700). Sotnikova said the time Griner has served in authority since her arrest in February would figure in with the sentence.
Griner responded to the sentence with little inclination, paying attention to the decision with a clear gaze all over. As she was driven out of court, Griner said:
“I love my family”
The nine-year sentence was near the limit of 10 years that Griner had to deal with under the charges, and prosecutors had requested a 9½-year sentence.
Griner’s defense lawyers said they would appeal. The defense team said that in sentencing the court had ignored all evidence it had presented and Griner’s guilty plea.
Defense attorney Maria Blagovolina told reporters later that Griner was “very upset, very stressed. She can hardly talk. It’s a difficult time for her.”
Under Russian law, Griner has 10 days to appeal, and her lawyers said they expect a hearing in Moscow regional court next week. Asked if Griner could ask for pardon from Russian President Vladimir Putin, Blagovolina said they would consider every possibility, but the lawyers said they were not part of any discussions about a prisoner swap.
U.S. President Joe Biden issued a statement on the verdict that referred to Griner as wrongfully detained — a designation U.S. officials have used since May — and called for her release.
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.”
The U.S. Embassy’s chargé d’affaires Elizabeth Rood called the verdict “a miscarriage of justice.”
A few others including WNBA magistrate Cathy Engelbert and NBA chief Adam Silver, have portrayed the decision and sentencing “outlandish and sad”.
Griner’s strategy throughout the trial was to treat it as a legitimate proceeding, knowing that a guilty verdict was considered a foregone conclusion and that any deal to send her home would require an admission of guilt.
Addressing the court at the end of her trial and before sentencing Thursday, Griner again told the court she made “an honest mistake” and talked about the sense of responsibility she learned from her parents growing up in Houston.
“That’s why I pled guilty to my charges. I understand everything that’s being said against me, the charges that are against me, and that is why I pled guilty,” Griner said, addressing the judge through an interpreter from her defendant’s cage. “But I had no intent to break any Russian laws.”
Griner also apologized to her teammates, fans and the city of Ekaterinburg, where she has played during WNBA offseasons since 2014.
“I never meant to hurt anybody. I never meant to put in jeopardy the Russian population. I never meant to break any laws here,” she said. “I made an honest mistake, and I hope that in your ruling, that it doesn’t end my life here.”