After finding her guilty of knowingly importing cannabis-infused vape cartridges into Russia, a Russian court sentenced American basketball player Brittney Griner to nine years in jail.
U.S. President Joe Biden called the decision “awful.”
After the decision, Griner was led out of the courthouse by police while being restrained, turned to the media and said, “I love my family.
Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) standout and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner was detained in mid-February when she traveled to play for a Russian team during the WNBA offseason. The Texan was thrust into the global uproar when President Vladimir Putin launched soldiers into Ukraine on February 24, bringing relations between the two countries to a new post-Cold War low.
The athlete, 31, and an imprisoned Russian who was formerly a successful arms trader could be exchanged in a prisoner swap between the United States and Russia as a result of her sentencing.
Although Griner had acknowledged possessing the vape cartridges containing hashish oil, she claimed she had packed them accidentally.
She begged the Russian judge before the decision not to “end her life” with a lengthy prison term. She was also assessed a $16,990 fine by the court.
Under pressure to return Americans detained in Russia, Biden urged Moscow to promptly release Griner and pledged that his government would continue to push for her freedom.
Attorneys for Griner announced that they would challenge the decision, calling it “completely irrational.” According to her defense team, the court disregarded all of the evidence they had provided and Griner’s admission of guilt.
After the hearing, Maria Blagovolina, a partner at Rybalkin Gortsunyan Dyakin and Partners, stated, “She is quite disturbed and very stressed.” “She barely speaks. She’s going through a difficult period.”
On Thursday, Griner stated in court before sobbing, “I made an honest mistake, and I hope that in your judgment, that it doesn’t terminate my life here.
“My parents instilled in me the value of taking responsibility for your actions and sacrificially earning what you possess. I pleaded guilty to my charges because of this.”
She told the court, “I want to state again that I had no intent to infringe any Russian legislation. I did not intend to commit this crime and did not plot or plan to do so.
The international politics surrounding her case were also mentioned by Griner, who said: “I know everyone is talking about political pawn and politics, but I hope it is far from this courtroom.”
Both medical and recreational marijuana use is forbidden in Russia.
Her acquittal was demanded by Griner’s defense team. One of her attorneys, Alexander Boikov, claimed that some of the case files had been created in contravention of the law.
Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan are among the American individuals for whom the United States has offered to trade Russian inmates.
According to a source with knowledge of the matter, Washington was open to exchanging Viktor Bout, a convicted arms dealer whose life served as inspiration for the Nicholas Cage–starrer Hollywood movie “Lord of War,” which was released in 2005.
According to Russian officials, no agreement has been reached. They contend that Griner, also referred to as “BG” by basketball fans, broke the law and must be punished accordingly.