Brittney Griner sentenced to NINE YEARS in Russian prison after WNBA star, 31, found guilty on drug charges | The Sun

BRITTNEY Griner has been found guilty of allegedly smuggling drugs into Russia and is sentenced to nine years in prison.

The Phoenix Mercury star has been jailed in Russia since February after being arrested at Moscow airport when a scan allegedly revealed that she had cartridges containing "liquid with hashish oil" in her luggage.

A Russian court sentenced Griner to nine years in prison and ordered her to pay one million rubles ($16,590) in fines.

Before her guilty verdict, Griner apologized in court, saying she made an "honest mistake".

“I want to apologize to my teammates, my club, my fans and the city of (Yekaterinburg) for my mistake that I made and the embarrassment that I brought on them,” Griner said as her voice cracked.

“I want to also apologize to my parents, my siblings, the Phoenix Mercury organization back at home, the amazing women of the WNBA, and my amazing spouse back at home.

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“I made an honest mistake, and I hope in your ruling it does not end my life,” the two-time Olympic gold medalist added.

Griner also called the city of Yekaterinburg her “second home”.

“I had no idea that the team, the cities, the fans, my teammates would make such a great impression on me over the 6 1/2 years that I spent here,” she said.

“I remember vividly coming out of the gym and all the little girls that were in the stands there waiting on me, and that’s what kept making me come back here.”

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Griner's verdict comes amid the Biden administration's recent efforts to secure her release by offering a prisoner swap of the WNBA star and former US Marine Paul Whelan for convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout.

The White House has reportedly been working on a deal to free the two US citizens in exchange for Bout, who's nicknamed the "merchant of death".

Bout is serving a 25-year sentence in the states after being convicted by a federal court in 2011 for conspiracy to kill US citizens and officials.

Griner's trial will have to conclude before a deal can be finalized, said US officials familiar with the Russian judicial system.

On the other hand, Russia has held Whelan for alleged espionage since 2018.

Russian authorities said Whelan had confidential documents in his hotel room while he was visiting the country to attend his friend's wedding and was given a 16-year sentence.

Whelan has claimed his arrest was a political stunt, according to ABC News, and he said, "The guards call me 'Tourist'".

“We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago to facilitate their release,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken in remarks at the State Department.

Blinken added that he plans to speak with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to bring up the proposal.

On Monday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that Russia had made a "bad faith" response to the US government's offer, a counteroffer that American officials don't regard as serious. However, she declined to elaborate.

Duncan Levin, a prominent defense lawyer and former federal and Manhattan prosecutor, said America's justice system is flawed, but it's still a system of due process versus the "sham" that exists in Russia.

"A prisoner swap with Russia is like negotiating with a hostage taker," Levin told The Sun. "This is an international relations dance rather than something that is playing out in the court."

Both Griner and Whelan's families have called on the White House to get their loved ones out of Russian jails.

But the current proposal "runs the risk that Russia will take more US citizens into custody as a bargaining chip to get what they want," Levin said.

"This runs the real risk that it will embolden Russia to baselessly imprison even more US citizens on bogus charges."

Back in April, US Marine Trevor Reed was released in a prison swap with Russia.

Reed had been held in Russia for 985 days.


Griner pleaded guilty earlier last month, saying she unintentionally brought cannabis into the country.

The WNBA star testified that she was in a hurry when she packed, had no idea the items were in her bags and did not intend to break Russian law.

She said in court that she uses cannabis oil in the US for treatment of chronic pain from injuries but knew that carrying cannabis into Russia was illegal.

Griner said she used it only in Arizona, where medical marijuana is legal.

Lawyers for the Phoenix Mercury center have presented character witnesses from the Russian team that she plays for in the WNBA offseason and written testimony from a doctor who said he prescribed her cannabis for pain treatment.

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The two-time Olympic gold medalist's lawyer, Maria Blagovolina, asked the court to acquit Griner, noting that she had no past criminal record and hailing her role in “the development of Russian basketball.”

Another defense attorney, Alexander Boykov, also emphasized Griner’s role in taking her Yekaterinburg team to win multiple championships, noting that her teammates loved and admired her.

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