October 5, 2022

Brittney Griner sentenced to nine years in Russian prison, prisoner exchange negotiations begin in earnest

Traveling abroad is a privilege that also comes with its own unique set of risks. WNBA star Brittney Griner has learned that lesson the hard way.

Griner was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison on Thursday on charges stemming from her Feb. 17 arrest at the Moscow airport, ESPN reported. This will allow negotiations to begin between the U.S. and Russia for a prisoner exchange.

The Phoenix Mercury center was found guilty of drug trafficking for having cannabis oil vape cartridges. Griner claimed not to know how they ended up in her luggage but said that a doctor had recommended the substance to treat the athlete’s pain.

Still, Judge Anna Sotnikova found that the WNBA player intentionally flouted the nation’s laws. Griner was handed the prison sentence as well as a fine of 1 million rubles, which amounts to about $16,700 in U.S. currency.

Griner’s defense attorney, Maria Blagovolina, said the basketball star was “very upset, very stressed” after the verdict. “She can hardly talk. It’s a difficult time for her.”

Her legal team will likely appeal but hasn’t ruled out other options, such as requesting a pardon from Russian President Vladimir Putin or perhaps a prisoner exchange from President Joe Biden. Tensions between the U.S. and Russia have been heating up since Biden took office, and the president spoke forcefully on Griner’s behalf.

“Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney,” Biden said of her conviction. “It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates.”

After expressing disdain for America, it’s interesting that Griner is eager to return to her home country that she was so eager to denigrate and denounce. Perhaps her time at the mercy of the Russian justice system has provided some much-needed perspective.

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