WNBA Player Brittney Griner Sentenced To 9 Years In Russian Prison For Drug Smuggling

By Gina Florio··  2 min read
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WNBA player Brittney Griner was arrested at a Moscow airport in February and taken into custody on cannabis possession charges. On Thursday she was sentenced to nine years in Russian prison after being convicted of drug smuggling.

When Griner arrived in Russia, she had vape cartridges of cannabis oil in her luggage; the amount came out to less than one gram of cannabis oil. It's illegal to possess cannabis in Russia and she was immediately arrested and detained even though she insisted she never used marijuana in Russia. She was just charged with nine years in Russian prison on account of drug smuggling.

WNBA Player Brittney Griner Sentenced to 9 Years in Russian Prison for Drug Smuggling

Griner, 31, is a two-tie US Olympic champion and an eight-time all-star with the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury. During her court trial, she pleaded with the judge to be lenient because she claims it was a mistake to pack the cannabis oil and she had no intention of breaking the law.

"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 in a final appeal to the court. "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."

Griner was flying into Yekaterinburg, Russia to play basketball and claimed she never used drugs on Russia soil. The judge found her guilty on drug possession and smuggling, ruling that she committed the crimes purposefully.

President Biden said the situation was "unacceptable" and demanded for Griner to be returned home. "I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates," Biden said.

Prosecutor Nikolai Vlasenko asked the court to fine Griner 1 million rubles, which is roughly $16,700, in addition to the nine-year prison sentence. However, the final length of her prison sentence will be determined once the US and Russia finish their negotiations about a potential prisoner swap.

Celebrities like Justin Bieber are speaking out about the verdict. He posted on his Instagram story a message in support of Griner. "This hurts," he wrote. "If anyone knows of anyway (sic) I can help please let me know."

Other celebrities joined in to support Griner and insist that she was being held unfairly as a political prisoner.

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