Brittney Griner Sentenced to 9 Years in Russian Prison

Brittney Griner is now in danger of serving a significant amount of time in prison for drug possession in Russia. According to USA Today, a Russian judge sentence the WNBA star and two-time United States Olympic Gold medalist to nine years in a penal colony after being found guilty of drug possession. Griner was arrested in February at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after Russian authorities discovered vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage. She has played for the Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg since 2014. 

“The hard work that my parents instilled in me is what brought me to play for the best EuroLeague and Russian team here in Ekaterinburg,” Griner said on Thursday. “I want to apologize to my teammates, the club, the fans and the city of (Ekaterinburg for) the mistake that I made and the embarrassment I brought. This is my second home. All I wanted to do was win a championship and make them proud.” 

Now that the trial has ended, the Joe Biden administration can ramp up negotiations with Russia to free Griner. In May, the U.S. State Department classified Griner as “wrongfully detained” and her case was moved to the Office of Special Presidental Envoy for Hostage Affairs. The U.S. is looking to secure the early release of Griner and American Paul Whelan via prison swap. The State Department revealed that the swap revolved around Russian Arms dealing Viktor Bout, nicknamed “The Merchant of Death.”

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