WNBA star Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison on Thursday stemming from her arrest on drug charges.
According to USA Today, a Russian judge sentenced Griner to nine years in a penal colony.
“I made an honest mistake, and I hope that in your ruling, it doesn’t end my life here,” Griner told the judge before the sentencing.
Griner’s arrest came on Feb. 17 at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow. Authorities said they found vape cartridges carrying hashish oil, which is extracted from cannabis, in her luggage.
She pleaded guilty to the drug charges, but she said she did so “without intent” and that she packed the vape cartridges in a rush without thinking. The court argued she committed the crime on purpose.
Russian legal experts expected Griner may get a lighter sentence than the 10-year maximum by pleading guilty, USA Today reported. In the end, only one year was knocked off.
Since 2014, Griner has spent the WNBA offseasons in Russia playing for a team called UMMC Ekaterinburg. She apologized to that organization on Thursday.
“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, according to USA Today.
Do you think this sentence is too harsh?
“I want to apologize to my teammates, the club, the fans and the city of [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.”
Following the sentence, negotiations over a prisoner swap between the U.S. and Russia are expected to continue.
The Biden administration has offered to send convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout back to Russia in exchange for Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan.
Bout is often referred to as the “Merchant of Death.” He is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence.
Former President Donald Trump criticized the potential swap on “The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show.”
“She knew you don’t go in there loaded up with drugs, and she admitted it,” Trump said.
“It certainly doesn’t seem like a very good trade, does it? He’s an absolute one of the worst in the world, and he’s gonna be given his freedom because a potentially spoiled person goes into Russia loaded up with drugs.”
After Griner’s nine-year sentence was announced, President Joe Biden issued a statement condemning the decision of the Russian court.
“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,” 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. My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”
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