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WNBA star Brittney Griner sentenced to 9 years in Russia after found guilty of drug smuggling

Griner has been detained since February on the charges, related to cannabis vape cartridges found in her luggage at Moscow-area airport

Published: August 4, 2022 10:01am

Updated: August 4, 2022 8:59pm

WNBA star Brittney Griner on Thursday was sentenced to nine years in Russian prison after being found guilty on drug possession charges. She was also fined $16,000. 

Griner has been behind bars in Russia since February when cannabis vape cartridges were found in her luggage at a Moscow-area airport.

Russian prosecutors asked for 9.5 years in incarceration for Griner, an Olympic gold medalist, who also plays in a Russian pro league. 

Griner last month pleaded guilty to cannabis possession, which carries a sentence of up to 10 years in Russian prison. 

"Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney. It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately," said President Biden following the sentence. "My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible."

The Biden administration has been trying in recent weeks to broker a deal for release in exchange for one or more Russians being detained in the U.S.

Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout is among those being considered in exchange for Griner and Paul Whelan, another American who is being held on espionage charges. 

Griner has maintained that she did not intentionally bring cannabis into Russia, but that the cannabis, which she uses medically when in the United States, was left in her luggage and "an honest mistake."

Griner spoke in court ahead of her sentencing, offering an apology from behind bars. 

"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," she said. "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."

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