Brittney Griner has been sentenced to nine years in prison in Russia for smuggling a marijuana pen into the country in February.
The WNBA star was found guilty of drug smuggling Thursday by a judge who dismissed her claim that she accidentally introduced the drugs. Prosecutors asked for a prison sentence of nine and a half years, six months less than the maximum of 10 months. years in prison
President Biden immediately denounced the sentence and said he was “wrongfully arrested” despite being found guilty. According to him, it was an “honest mistake” and the drugs must have ended up in his bag “accidentally”.
Immediately after the sentencing, Biden said: “Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney. It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends and teammates.”
He said he will continue working “tirelessly” to find “every avenue” to bring him and Paul Whelan — another American imprisoned in Russia — home.
Griner, 31, was arrested at a Moscow airport in February and has been in custody since, despite the White House’s failure to negotiate his release.
On Thursday, he sat in the defendant’s cage inside the courtroom throughout the proceedings, relying on an interpreter to whisper everything the judge said to him.
Brittney Griner at the Khimki courthouse near Moscow on Thursday. The 31-year-old American athlete has been sentenced to nine years in prison
Griner was held in a cell as he sat at a table surrounded by his legal team. He had to rely on an interpreter to convey what the judge said
Griner will be led out of the court in Khimki, carrying a book, a bottle of water and photos of his teammates that he presented to the judge earlier.
Griner was escorted out of court Thursday. His lawyers have not yet indicated whether they will appeal the verdict, or if that is a possibility.
Brittney Griner holds up a team photo showing her playing UMMC Yekaterinburg, the Russian team that was in the offseason to bolster the WNBA’s earnings.
Before sentencing, he pleaded for calm and asked the judge to consider his good character.
A judge accepted his plea: he pleaded guilty to drug possession and smuggling. They ruled that he committed the crimes intentionally, which he has denied.
He said he did not want to be seen as a political pawn, and that bringing cannabis into the country was a simple “honest mistake”.
“Russia became my second home. I vividly remember walking out of the gym and all the little girls coming out and waiting for me. That’s what kept me coming back here.
“I want to apologize to my teammates, my club and the city for the mistake I made and the shame I brought.
“I want to apologize to my parents, my siblings, the Phoenix Mercury, the amazing women of the WNBA and my amazing spouses back home.”
“I never wanted to hurt anyone, I never wanted to endanger the Russian population, I never wanted to break the law.
“I made an honest mistake and I hope your judgment ends my life. I know everyone keeps talking about political pawn and politics…but I hope they stay away from this court.
I never wanted to break the law. I made an honest mistake and I hope your judgment ends my life.
“I had no intention of breaking Russian law. I did not conspire or plan to commit this crime.
“I hope you will be able to consider all the documents, the lists of characters sent on my behalf.
“This is my second home. What I wanted was to win championships and make them proud,” he said. The State Department was in talks to secure Griner’s release as part of a deal that would bring home imprisoned American Paul Whelan.
The deal has been on the table for weeks, but Russia has yet to agree.
US officials will not confirm that it involves the release of a Russian criminal known as the “merchant of death” Viktor Boult.
Griner shaking hands with attorney Alexander Boykov, right. Elizabeth Rood, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, is pictured, left
Grine was removed from the handcuffs after being taken to the Khimki detention center near Moscow on Thursday.
Griner and his wife, Cherelle, have been asking the White House for help for months
Griner was arrested at Moscow airport in February when customs officials found a cannabis pen in his luggage. He has been in prison ever since
Part of the proposed trade for Griner was also to fire Paul Whelan. He has been in a Russian prison since 2018 on charges of espionage
In closing arguments Thursday, his lawyers asked for leniency.
Griner had been arrested in the US in 2010 and was expected to be released as part of a prisoner exchange for arms dealer Viktor Bout.
“There is Usain Bolt in sprinting, Michael Schumacher in Formula 1, and Brittney Griner in women’s basketball,” said his lawyer Maria Blagovolina.
Blagovolina, a partner at the law firm Rybalkin Gortsunyan Dyakin and Partners, said that if the court deems it necessary to punish Griner, Griner should be treated leniently.
Griner’s family said they are disappointed with the White House’s response to the situation.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that Russia has responded in “bad faith” to the US government’s offer, a counteroffer that US officials do not consider serious.
He refused to elaborate.
Griner has admitted to having vape containers with cannabis oil in his luggage when he was arrested at a Moscow airport.
But he insisted that he had no criminal intent and that the mugs ended up in his luggage because he was in a hurry.
“I still don’t understand how they ended up in my bag,” he said.
Griner was prescribed medical marijuana to relieve pain from chronic injuries in the United States, a common treatment method among elite athletes because it has fewer side effects than some painkillers.
She played for a Russian women’s basketball team during the WNBA offseason.
As part of the deal, the White House offered to exchange Whelan and Griner, but not Mark Fogel — a professor jailed in Russia in 2021 on drug-trafficking charges.
His family has asked the Biden administration for help. Many have called for Griner’s release because marijuana is legal in the US.
Brittney Griner has been sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison
Source link Brittney Griner has been sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison