Brittney Griner Sentenced To Nine Years In Russian Drug Trial
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Prosecutors had argued for a nine and a half year sentence for Griner, with the judge giving them almost all the time behind bars they asked for.
She said: "I made an honest mistake, and I hope in your ruling it does not end my life."
Griner told the court: "I want to apologise 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.
"I want to also apologise to my parents, my siblings, the Phoenix Mercury organisation back at home, the amazing women of the WNBA, and my amazing spouse back at home."
Judge Anna Sotnikova said the time Griner has served in custody since her arrest in February will count toward the sentence.
Griner reacted to the sentence with little emotion. She listened to the verdict with a blank stare on her face.
Her lawyer Maria Blagovolina argued that Griner took the cartridges with her to Russia inadvertently and only used cannabis to treat pain from injuries sustained in her career, she said she used it only in Arizona where medical marijuana is legal.
Blagovolina emphasised that Griner was packing in haste after a gruelling flight and suffering from the effects of Covid-19.
She also pointed out that the analysis of cannabis found in Griner’s possession was flawed and violated legal procedures.
Another defence lawyer, Alexander Boykov, also emphasised Griner’s role in taking her Yekaterinburg team to win multiple championships, noting that she was loved and admired by her teammates.
He told the judge a conviction would undermine Russia’s efforts to develop national sports and make Moscow’s call to depoliticise sports sound shallow.
Boykov added that even after her arrest, Griner won the sympathy of guards and fellow inmates, who shouted 'Brittney, everything will be OK!' when she went on walks at the jail.
Despite their efforts, Griner was found guilty, an unsurprising verdict considering fewer than one percent of people on trial in Russia are acquitted.
Griner's best possible escape route now is a potential prisoner swap done between the US and Russian governments.
Washington has offered to swap Griner and fellow incarcerated American Paul Whelan, arrested in 2018 and sentenced to 16 years in prison in Russia for espionage, for arms dealer Viktor Bout.
Known as 'the merchant of death', Bout was sentenced to 25 years in an American prison on charges of scheming to illegally sell millions of dollars worth of weapons.