By: Marie Scarci | October 25, 2022
The Nine-year sentence handed to American basketball star Brittney Griner for drug possession has been upheld by a Russian court. The decision was announced today, the Moscow region court rejected her appeal, but said she will serve around eight years in prison due to time spent on pre trial detainees - one day counts as one and a half days.
Griner, an eight-time All Star and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist was convicted of carrying cannabis oil vapes in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport back in August. She was returning to play in an off-season league in Russia. At that time tensions between U.S. and Russian were coming to a head and just days earlier Russian sent troops into the Ukraine.
Griner's lawyers admitted that their client had the cannabis canisters in her luggage, but they argued she did so by mistake and without criminal intent. Written statements were provided that said Griner, an active athlete, is an annual patient who was prescribed cannabis for treatment for her pain.
Her defense team argued that 9 years was an excessive sentence for this crime, and they said other criminals with similar charges have been given sentences ranging from 1-5 years on average with about 33% granted parole.
After Griner's arrest, the U.S. State Department declared her “wrongfully detained”— which Russia has sharply rejected. The Biden administration is coming under pressure to do more for Griner as her detention continues. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken revealed earlier this year that Washington had made a "substantial proposal" in order get her back home, along with Paul Whelan, an American serving 16 years behind bars in Russia for espionage. The unprecedented move from our country’s top diplomat comes at time when tensions are rising between the two.
In April, the U.S and Russia conducted a prisoner swap to release two convicted criminals from their respective countries' jails- one American a Marine veteran named Trevor Reed for Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko who had been arrested on drug related charges.
U.S President Joe Biden met with Cherelle Griner, the wife of Brittney Griner in September, as well her agent Lindsay Colas. He also sat down with Elizabeth Whelan, who is Paul's sister to discuss how best they can help bring back their loved ones safely.
The President reassured the families during the meeting their “continued commitment to working through all available avenues to bring Brittney and Paul home safely.”
With rumors of several candidates for a trade deal, such as Viktor Bout, nicknamed "Merchant of Death", a Russian arms dealer currently serving a 25 year sentence, which Blinken didn't go into details about. There's also Alexander Vinnik, accused of laundering billions and another possible candidate was Roman Seleznev, serving 27 years for credit card fraud and hacking. With all the speculation only time will tell at this point to see what kind of deal wil be worked out to bring her back home.