According to investigative reporter T.J. Quinn of ESPN, Brittney Griner has reportedly been sentenced to nine years by a Russian court for the smuggling and illegal possession of hashish oil in a vape cartridge authorities found in a suitcase Griner had as she was leaving Russia shortly before the country invaded Ukraine.
Griner was also fined one million rubles, roughly $16,300 US. dollars. Griner pled guilty to her alleged crimes nearly a month ago ahead of her trial, but the judge of her case still decided to hear out the circumstances of her case. Griner’s team hoped that entering a guilty plea would help facilitate a prisoner exchange.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken later proposed a high-stakes exchange to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Blinked proposed the swapping of Giner and Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned for espionage, for convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout. However, according to Bloomberg, Russia was reportedly leaning towards rejecting the proposed high-stakes prisoner swap unless another Russian prisoner was included
Before the verdict was announced, Griner made a final appeal saying she had no intention to break the law by bringing vape cartridges with cannabis oil into Russia. Griner flew into Moscow in February to play basketball in the city of Yekaterinburg.
“I never meant to hurt anybody,” Griner said. “I never meant to put in jeopardy the Russian population. I never meant to break any laws here. I made an honest mistake, and I hope that in your ruling that it doesn’t end my life here.
U.S. President Joe Biden issued a statement on the verdict,
“Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: 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. My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”