By Hunter Dublin | August 5, 2022
Brittney Griner, the US basketball star, was sentenced to nine years in jail on drug charges by a Russian court.
"I love my family," Griner, 31, was heard saying as she was brought out of the courthouse in handcuffs.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist acknowledged having cannabis oil but told the court it was an "honest mistake."
A court near Moscow found her guilty of drug smuggling and possession. The prosecution sought a sentence of nine and a half years in prison.
In reading the decision on Thursday, the presiding judge stated that she had considered that the American had already spent a significant amount of time in jail.
Maria Blagovolina, Griner's defense attorney, stated that her client was "extremely unhappy, very anxious."
"She rarely speaks, and I must say, it's a tough moment for her."
"When we visited Brittney on Tuesday, we told her, 'See you on Thursday,' and she answered, "See you on doomsday,' so it appears she was correct."
The defense team stated that they would appeal the judgment.
Griner, regarded as one of the top female players in the world, was held in February at a Moscow-area airport after vape cartridges containing cannabis oil were discovered in her luggage.
She had traveled to Russia to play club basketball during the off-season in the United States.
Soon after, Russia invaded Ukraine, and her situation has been the focus of high-level diplomacy between the United States and Russia.
The sentence was deemed "inappropriate" by US President Joe Biden.
"Russia, and any government participating in unlawful imprisonment, constitutes a threat to the safety of everyone traveling, working, and living abroad," stated US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Griner's imprisonment period is also uncertain, as the US and Russia have been considering a possible prisoner swap involving the basketball star.
According to reports in the US media, Washington may send imprisoned Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, often known as the Merchant of Death, to Russian authorities as part of the arrangement.
Following her conviction, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby encouraged Russia to accept the US's "serious request" for Griner and fellow US citizen Paul Whelan.
"It's a serious proposition, and we encourage them to embrace it; they should have taken it weeks ago," Mr. Kirby added.
Griner stated after the court heard the final arguments, "I made an honest mistake, and I hope your verdict does not terminate my life."
"I did not plot or collaborate to conduct this crime," she stated.
Griner also claimed that she was not given an explanation of her rights or access to a lawyer during her initial incarceration and that she had to converse through a translation tool on her phone.