MOSCOW (CelebrityAccess) — American WNBA star Brittney Griner is facing 9 years in a Russian penal colony after being found guilty of attempting to smuggle illegal drugs into the nation.
According to the New York Times, Griner was sentenced on Thursday, ending a trial that her supporters claim has cast Griner as pawn in unfolding showdown between NATO and Russia over Ukraine.
Griner was detained on February 22nd at Sheremetyevo International Airport after Russian law enforcement officers found vaporizer cartridges containing hash oil in her luggage. Griner says she had the oil, which is legal to possess in much of the U.S., told the court that she didn’t intend to bring the drug to Russia, describing it as an “honest mistake,” according to the Times.
Griner’s defense team noted that the 9-year sentence was “absolutely unreasonable” and following her sentence, President Biden issued a statement.
“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. It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates. My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”
The length of Griner’s sentence may be linked to an offer to Russia from the Biden Administration, seeking the release of Griner and Whelan, an American citizen who is facing a 16-year sentence after being accused of espionage, in exchange for freeing convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout.
While Russia has not formally responded to the prisoner exchange offer, sources close to the negotiations told Bloomberg that Russia is seeking the release of at least two prisoners in exchange for the two Americans.