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Court Upholds Conviction of Brittney Griner as WNBA Star Faces Years of Prison Time in Russia

Brittney Griner

Brittney Griner

A court in Russia rejected on Tuesday incarcerated WNBA star Brittney Griner’s appeal of her 9-year prison sentence for carrying a small amount of hashish oil.

The court did rule to recalculate Griner’s prison sentence based on her pre-trial detention, according to The Associated Press. For every one day in custody before trial, she will get credited for 1.5 days in prison. That reportedly means she will spend about eight years in prison.

Griner, 32, is currently at a penal colony outside of Moscow, according to the AP.

She was arrested at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow on Feb. 17. She reportedly had less than a gram of cannabis oil inside vape canisters in her luggage. Griner, a center for the WBA’s Phoenix Mercury, had been returning to Russia, where she played in the offseason.

She reportedly testified that she did have the canisters in her luggage, but she said she did not mean to bring them. She packed them by accident, in a rush, Griner said.

The defense, which said Griner was prescribed the hashish oil to treat pain, had called the 9-year sentence excessive, adding that people in similar cases received an average of five years behind bars. A third of the defendants got parole, the defense argued.

Critics of the Russian regime say Moscow is only using Griner as a bargaining chip in international relations. She was arrested just days before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“We are aware of the news out of Russia that Brittney Griner will continue to be wrongfully detained under intolerable circumstances after having to undergo another sham judicial proceeding today,” National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement released through the White House. “President Biden has been very clear that Brittney should be released immediately. In recent weeks, the Biden-Harris Administration has continued to engage with Russia through every available channel and make every effort to bring home Brittney as well as to support and advocate for other Americans detained in Russia, including fellow wrongful detainee Paul Whelan. The President has demonstrated that he is willing to go to extraordinary lengths and make tough decisions to bring Americans home, as his Administration has done successfully from countries around the world. The Administration remains in regular touch with representatives of the families, and we continue to admire their courage in the face of these unimaginable circumstances.”

The Biden administration has offered to release convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for the releases of both Griner and Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine convicted in an espionage case. The U.S. State Department spokesman said Whelan was “wrongfully detained,” according to CNN.

“There is such a human side to BG that a lot of people on the outside don’t know,” former USA Basketball head coach Dawn Staley told ESPN in a recent profile for Griner’s Oct. 18 birthday. “I wish that a lot of people were able to see that and could express themselves with the honesty that Brittney does.”

Staley coached Griner as part of the gold medal-winning US teams in the 2018 FIBA World Cup and the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Brianna Turner, a teammate on the Mercury, recalled joining teammates in a visit to Griner and Griner’s wife Cherelle Griner’s home.

“We played with their dogs, watched TV and reminisced more about our season,” she told ESPN. “BG nonchalantly had her most recent Olympic gold medal laying out on her coffee table, and I made sure to take a selfie with it as if I had just won gold and was standing on a podium. But that’s just the type of person BG is: humble and welcoming to those around her. I hold on so hard to those memories of that evening. It’s wild to think that I last saw her in person a year ago; her birthday is obviously so different this time around. I was able to send her a letter, though, and hopefully she will receive it on birthday. So many people that don’t personally know BG have so many various opinions about her. But I can honestly say BG is probably the warmest person I know. Her energy is infectious, and she is the first person willing to help someone in need.”


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