Brittney Griner Sentenced in Russia

WNBA star gets 9 years after being found guilty on drug charges
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 4, 2022 10:13 AM CDT
Griner Convicted of Drug Charges in Russian Court
Brittney Griner stands in a cage in a courtroom prior to a hearing in Khimki just outside Moscow on Thursday.   (Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool Photo via AP)

(Newser) Updated with new details throughout. Brittney Griner has been convicted on drug possession charges in Russia and sentenced to nine years in prison, reports the AP. Before the verdict, an emotional Griner apologized Thursday for her actions, with a prosecutor urging that the American basketball star be convicted and sentenced to 9 1/2 years in a case that has reached the highest levels of US-Russia diplomacy. Griner made her final appeal to the court and said she had no intention to break the law by bringing vape cartridges with cannabis oil when she flew to Moscow in February to play basketball in the city of Yekaterinburg.

"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, per the AP. "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." She called what had happened "an honest mistake," adding that she hopes the ruling "does not end my life." Under Russian law, the 31-year-old Griner faced up to 10 years in prison, though judges have considerable latitude on sentencing. Her conviction had been widely expected, as Russian courts rarely acquit defendants and Griner had admitted to having vape cartridges with cannabis oil in her luggage.

Lawyers for the Phoenix Mercury center and two-time Olympic gold medalist presented character witnesses from the Russian team that she plays for in the WNBA offseason and written testimony from a doctor who said he prescribed her cannabis for pain treatment. Griner's legal team had argued that Griner brought the cartridges with her to Russia inadvertently and only used cannabis to treat her pain from injuries sustained in her career. She said she used it only in Arizona, where medical marijuana is legal. Prosecutor Nikolai Vlasenko, however, insisted that Griner packed the cannabis oil deliberately, and he asked the court to hand Griner a fine of about $16,700 in addition to the prison sentence. Attention now turns to the high-stakes possibility of a prisoner swap.

(Read more Brittney Griner stories.)

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