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WNBA Star and Two-Time Olympian Brittney Griner Has Nine-Year Sentence Upheld in Russian Court

Brittney Griner’s situation in Russia has gone from bad to worse. The WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist’s appeal was officially denied on Tuesday, leaving her with a nine-year sentence that she is expected to serve in a Russian penal colony. 

Griner was convicted on August 4, 2022 after entering Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport where authorities found vape cartridges with cannabis oil in her luggage. Griner took part in a video call from her current penal colony outside of Moscow to discuss the results of her appeal. 

“This has been a very traumatic experience, waiting for this day … getting nine years for the crime,” stated Griner during the video call. “People with more severe crimes have gotten less than what I was given.”

The judge overseeing Griner’s case claimed that a significant amount of cannabis oil was found within her luggage, although reports state that less than a gram of hashish was found. At this juncture, Griner’s only hope of escaping the Russian penal system is through a prisoner swap between the United States and Russian governments. 

Previously, the Biden Administration offered a 2-for-1 exchange of Brittney Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan, who U.S. officials stated was also wrongfully imprisoned by Russian authorities, for Viktor Bout. The Russian arms dealer known as “the Merchant of Death” is currently serving a 25-year sentence in an Illinois federal prison for conspiring to kill U.S. citizens and for selling weapons to terrorists in Colombia. 

Unfortunately, this exchange has not been accepted and conversations have stalled at this point between U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov. With the exchange process halted and the appeal dismissed, Griner’s lawyers Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, released a statement on Griner’s behalf.

“The verdict contains numerous defects and we hoped that the court of appeal would take them into consideration,” the attorneys stated. “We still think the punishment is excessive and contradicts the existing court practice…Brittney does not expect any miracles to happen, but hopes that the appeal court will hear the arguments of the defense and reduce the number of years.”

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