WNBA star Brittney Griner has been found guilty of drug possession in Russia and has been handed a nine year jail sentence.
The 31-year-old was detained in Russia back in February after officials found cannabis oil in her bag. After pleading guilty during a politically charged trial, the basketball player faces time behind bars.
Griner listened as an interpreter read out the verdict by Judge Anna Sotnikova.
Breaking: Brittney Griner was found guilty of drug possession and smuggling in a Russian court outside Moscow. Griner has been sentenced to nine years in prison.— ESPN (@espn) August 4, 2022
The true length of her detainment will be determined by negotiations on a prisoner swap between the U.S. and Russia. pic.twitter.com/2PBk2HFBR2
An emotional Griner spoke earlier in the session prior to her sentencing and asked for leniency. She said it was not her intention to break the law by bringing vape cartridges with cannabis oil into the country when she flew to Moscow in February to play basketball in the city of Yekaterinburg.
She said: "I want to apologise to my team-mates, 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."
BREAKING🚨: A judge in Russia has sentenced American basketball player Brittney Griner to nine years in prison over drug charges. pic.twitter.com/zHtcyZudDL— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) August 4, 2022
She then spoke about Yekaterinburg.
"I had no idea that the team, the cities, the fans, my teammates would make such a great impression on me over the six and a half years that I spent here.
"I remember vividly coming out of the gym and all the little girls that were in the stands there waiting on me, and that's what kept making me come back here."
Despite the ruling, Griner could still be able to return to the United States amid ongoing tensions between the US and Russia over Ukraine.
Griner could be involved in a high stake prisoner exchange between the two nations.
President Joe Biden said after the verdict was revealed that Griner is being wrongly detained.
He said: “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 in a statement. “It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates.”
President Joe Biden released the following statement after a Russian court sentenced Brittney Griner to nine years in prison: pic.twitter.com/wxDCbaaQBe— ESPN (@espn) August 4, 2022
Prosecutor Nikolai Vlasenko was adamant that Griner packed the cannabis oil on purpose. Further to her jail sentence, Vlasenko asked the court to fine Griner one million rubles(£13,400).
Griner’s lawyer, Maria Blagovolina stated that the two time Olympic gold medalist used the cannabis only in Arizona, where it is legal to take medical marijuana.
Blagovolina added that Griner was packing with extra urgency after a long flight and suffered from the consequences of COVID-19. She also eluded to that the analysis of cannabis found in Griner’s bag was flawed and violated legal procedures.
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