Brittney Griner Was Found Guilty On Russian Drug Charges And Sentenced To Nine Years

Brittney Griner’s trial on drug charges in Russia came to an end on Thursday with the WNBA star getting sentenced to nine years in prison. The sentence, which was handed down by a judge and includes a fine of 1 million rubles (this comes out to just over $16,000), is slightly less than the maximum sentence of 10 years. Griner’s legal team plans to appeal the ruling, which it calls “absolutely unreasonable” and argues it “completely ignored all the evidence of the defense, and most importantly, the guilty plea.”

“I want the court to understand that it was an honest mistake that I made while rushing and in stress trying to recover post-Covid and just trying to get back to my team,” Griner told the court while testifying on Thursday, according to the New York Times.

T.J. Quinn of ESPN noted that a sentence being handed down was an important step in the efforts by the U.S. State Department, which has long classified the Phoenix Mercury center as “wrongfully detained,” to get Griner home. Much has been made of the fact that the Biden administration offered to send a Viktor Bout, arms trafficker who is serving a 25-year sentence in Illinois, back to Russia in exchange for Griner and another American who is serving a prison sentence after being convicted on espionage charges in 2020 named Paul Whelan.

As Quinn noted, Griner getting sentenced means that conversations can escalate between officials with an eye on striking some sort of deal.

In the aftermath of the ruling, President Joe Biden released a statement saying, “Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney. It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates. My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”

The NBA and WNBA likewise released a statement, calling the decision “unjustified and unfortunate.”