Brittney Griner faces a 9-year sentence in a Russian prison following her conviction. Here’s what could happen next for the WNBA star


Now Griner has returned to the detention center where she was held during her week-long trial as her lawyers promise to appeal the sentence and the Biden administration attempts to negotiate her release.

During the trial, Griner pleaded guilty to carrying less than a gram of cannabis oil in her luggage as she walked through a Moscow airport on February 17. She testified in court that she was aware of Russia’s strict drug laws and had no intention of bringing cannabis. in the country, saying she was in a hurry and was “preparing for stress”.

His attorneys had hoped that Griner’s guilty plea and statements of remorse would result in a more lenient sentence. She faces 10 years on the charges and prosecutors have asked that she be sentenced to 9.5 years in prison. In addition to his nine-year sentence, Griner must pay a fine of 1 million rubles, or about $16,400.

“I made an honest mistake and I hope your decision doesn’t end my life here,” Griner said in court ahead of the verdict. “I know everyone talks about political pawn and politics, but I hope it’s away from this courtroom.”

The US State Department classified Griner as wrongly detained. The Biden administration has offered to trade a convicted Russian arms dealer in exchange for Griner and another American detainee, Paul Whelan, CNN previously reported.
After the verdict, Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, tweeted“Today’s sentencing of Brittney Griner was severe by Russian legal standards and will prove what we have known all along, that Brittney is being used as a political pawn.”
In a statement, President Joe Biden said the sentence was “unacceptable” and demanded that she be sent back to the United States to be reunited with her family.

Here’s what’s next for Griner as she awaits a call from her lawyers and the United States continues to negotiate her release.

Lawyers to appeal ‘unreasonable’ verdict

Griner’s legal team will file an appeal against the court’s decision, which it must do within 10 days of the verdict, according to its attorneys, Alexander Boykov and Maria Blagovolina, who is a partner at law firm Rybalkin, Gortsunyan , Dyakin and Partners.

“We are very disappointed with the verdict. As legal professionals, we believe that the court should be fair to everyone, regardless of their nationality. The court completely ignored all the defense evidence, and most importantly, the plea of guilt,” they said in a statement.

They called the verdict “absolutely unreasonable” and insisted in the statement that the ruling “contradicts existing legal practice” in Russia.

Blagovolina told reporters that the average prison term for this type of crime is five years, adding that nearly a third of those convicted are granted parole.

During the trial, attorneys argued that Griner’s detention was mishandled. Griner said she was made to sign documents she did not fully understand and was not given adequate translations of the documents into Russian.

A defense expert also testified that the examination of vape cartridges containing cannabis oil did not comply with Russian law.

The United States offered a prisoner exchange for Griner’s return

Last week, CNN reported that the Biden administration had offered a prisoner swap, offering to trade a convicted Russian arms dealer for Griner and Whelan. Whelan, a US citizen and former Marine, was sentenced to 16 years in prison in 2018 for espionage after a trial deemed unfair by the US.

After Griner’s sentencing, National Security Council coordinator John Kirby said it was “up to the Russian side” whether sentencing would open the door to prisoner exchange negotiations.

Joe Biden calls Brittney Griner's sentence a
After the United States offered a prisoner swap, Russia retaliated by demanding that convicted murderer Vadim Krasikov also be released, multiple sources familiar with the talks told CNN. The United States did not consider the meter a legitimate proposal, in part because the request was made through an informal channel.

Kirby reiterated on Thursday that the United States’ position remains that it wants Russia “to take the deal on the table because it’s a good deal, it’s fair, and it will help bring Paul (Whelan) back. and Brittney at home”.

While U.S. officials have long opposed prisoner swaps, the successful release of Trevor Reed, an American and former Marine imprisoned in Russia, drew bipartisan praise from lawmakers and was seen as a political victory for the administration. Biden.

Family and supporters continue to fight for his return

The trade proposal follows months of pressure from Griner’s family and members of the basketball community.

The star’s wife, Cherelle Griner, has been open about her desire for US officials to take more substantial action to bring his wife home. Days after Cherelle Griner aired her frustrations in an interview with CNN, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris held a call with her to reassure her of their commitment to securing his wife’s release, according to a call record. of the White House.

Griner also enjoyed the constant support of his WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury, as well as other members of the basketball community.

Before the start of a Thursday night game between the Mercury and the Connecticut Sun, members of both teams linked arms in the center of the field and held a 42-second minute of silence for Griner, who wears 42 on his jersey . After the end, people in the crowd started chanting, “Take her home!” Bring her home!

CNN’s Allie Malloy, Chris Liakos, Natasha Bertrand, Frederik Pleitgen, Eric Levenson, Dakin Andone, Travis Caldwell, Jill Martin, Betsy Klein, Kate Sullivan and MJ Lee contributed to this report.




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