Russian Court Finds Brittney Griner Guilty in Drug Trial

Prosecutors asked the court to sentence her to 9 ½ years.
Photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool via Reuters

A Russian court on Thursday found American basketball star Brittney Griner guilty of drug charges and sentenced her to nine years in prison, the culmination of a trial that has stirred tensions between Moscow and the United States.

Griner, who has been detained since February, appeared in the courtroom earlier in the day to appeal for leniency, as her attorneys and the prosecution delivered closing arguments.

The Russian prosecutor asked the judge presiding over the case to sentence Griner to nine-and-a-half years.

The guilty verdict, which was handed down around 11 a.m. on the East Coast in the United States, was widely expected and puts Griner’s fate “subject to diplomatic bargaining between Russia and the United States,” as The New York Times put it.

In recent days, Russian and U.S. officials have been discussing a potential prisoner exchange involving Griner and Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer currently serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States.

Last week, the Biden administration made an offer to Russia that would see the release of Bout, Griner, and Paul Whelan, an American who has been detained in Russia on espionage charges since 2018.

Earlier this week, Bloomberg reported that Russia had rejected that offer, instead favoring a deal that would secure the release of two Russian prisoners.

The New York Times reported on Thursday that “officials in Moscow have said that a verdict in her trial was a necessary precondition for a possible exchange” for Griner.

Griner, a star for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, was traveling back to Russia on February 17 to complete her season for UMMC Ekaterinburg––for whom she plays during the WNBA’s offseason––when authorities found cannabis oil in her luggage. She was arrested and faced drug charges that carried a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

Her detention, which came mere days before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has become another tension in the geopolitical strife between Moscow and the west. In May, the U.S. Department of State reclassified as “wrongfully detained.”

Griner pleaded guilty to the charges last month, but insisted that it was not her intention to break the law. Addressing the court on Thursday, she once again appealed for leniency.

“I want to apologize 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,” Griner said, as quoted by the Associated Press, which noted that her voice was “cracking.” “I want to also apologize to my parents, my siblings, the Phoenix Mercury organization back at home, the amazing women of the WNBA, and my amazing spouse back at home.”

Griner also spoke warmly of her experience playing for Ekaterinburg since 2014.

“I had no idea that the team, the cities, the fans, my teammates would make such a great impression on me over the 6 1/2 years that I spent here,” she said, according to the Associated Press. “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.”

President Joe Biden has faced growing pressure to secure Griner’s release.

Last month, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke with Griner’s wife, Cherelle, after Griner sent the president a handwritten letter.

“As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever,” Griner said in the letter to Biden.

“I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other American Detainees,” Griner continued. “Please do all you can to bring us home. I voted for the first time in 2020 and I voted for you. I believe in you. I still have so much good to do with my freedom that you can help restore. I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my teammates! It kills me to know they are suffering so much right now. I am grateful for whatever you can do at this moment to get me home.”

  1. Celebrate good times, come on!
    There’s a jail sentence goin’ on right here
    A celebration to last throughout the years
    So bring your good times, and your laughter too
    We gonna celebrate your jail sentence with you!!!

  2. Karma’s a bitch. Will you start kneeling for the Russian anthem too? Stupid loser. Thankfully in about another 2 weeks you’ll be yesterday’s news…forgotten.

  3. Where can I mail her some pot to ease the pain of being a dumb ass? At least she’ll have many wife’s where’s she’s headed. I’m all for swapping Biden for her. Lol. Maybe she’ll run for president. Lol. What a looser. @ “I can’t be without my pot” gotta have my fix. I think I’ll just bring some pot along with me. No intent, yeah.

    1. Exactly Dennis. Isn’t it funny how she forgot about packing her vape pens exactly at the moment she was packing. That’s hilarious. No intent my ass. Guilty.

  4. No one should be celebrating yet another victim of draconian drug laws, however much you dislike them. People like y’all are the reason we continue to see many people incarcerated for our medicine.

    1. I totally agree that these drug laws are draconian. No dispute there. However, as much one might dislike anti-drug laws implemented by these foreign, backward-thinking countries like Russia, one fact remains…she broke Russian law. Like it or not. It’s the people who say she was wrongfully detained that bother me. The ones who say she made a mistake bother me. The ones who claim she was set up bother me. The ones who say she was forced to supplement her nice $230,000 salary by going to Russia bother me. The ones playing the race card bother me. The ones playing the lesbian car bother me. The ones pushing to make a swap for “The Merchant of Death” bother me. The ones who pretend she is innocent bother me. The ones who ignore the plight of the dozens of other American citizens locked up abroad for the exact same drug offences bother me. And worst of all, the media bothers me for fanning the flames to this incredibly pathetic shitshow all in order to increase readership. The media is driving this bus and I for one am glad this bus went over the cliff with a resounding thud. Brittney Grinder knowingly broke the law. Her excuses are lame. Her defence is lame. She is lame. I’m not celebrating this outcome, but I’m not sad about the sentence either. Probably because she’s not very likeable to begin with. I loathe domestic abusers so basically she is quite easy to hate. I for one won’t be losing any sleep tonight knowing this entitled, ignorant, malcontent will be eating borscht for the next nine years. Actually I’ve had borscht and it’s pretty good. And she’ll also learn a second language so it’s not really all so bad. It’s like getting an education overseas. Come to think of it, I am celebrating this decision. She will come out of this a much better person after this is all over. And that’s a very good thing. Russia is actually doing her a big favour. I just hope she can embrace her new life with vim, vigour and new-found enthusiasm. We should celebrate Russia’s gift Brittney. Thank you Russia. Brittney thanks you.

  5. For one thing if you don’t even know she’s a woman not a man then you don’t get to leave a opinion. It’s wrong and sad. She made a mistake. To pay 9 years of her life for less than a gram of thc oil??? Her sentence was personal not lawful

    1. It’s not even established it wasn’t just CBD only cannabis oil. Griner is subject to 2 pro leagues that test for THC and has always been clean, same as her test upon arrest. Any cannabis is illegal in Russia (up to 2g of natural hash or 6g of MJ is a misdemeanor weight in Russia) but it’s likely BG had o.7o2g CBD only cannabis

  6. A lot of hate filled responses here. . . . I could only wish peoples warped opinions and expressed hatred go elsewhere. The verdict is a joke. Russia is playing this as a game with the US over our involvement with Ukraine. What’s worrisome is Putin’s displacement of 4 million people and total ‘slash and burn’ mentality. The people of Ukraine deserve better than the Soviet domination of their country. That’s the real ‘crime’ in this story. Griner is just a pawn in this game.

  7. Black privilege won’t save her now. Neither will playing the lesbian card. She hates Murica, she beat her first wife, she was stupid for deliberately sneaking hash oil into Russia and she deserves everything that’s coming to her. She is a shitty human being so fuck you Brittney Griner. By the way, I’m a card-carrying Democrat. I know scum when I see it.

    1. So I’m a troll because you happen to disagree with my opinion? Sounds like you’re the troll. Rich buddy, ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law. I learned that back in grade six. Let’s not forget that she’s a black, lesbian basketball player (which nobody had heard of before this drug bust). In America she’s the flavor of the month…but that shit don’t fly in Russia though. Why doesn’t the government work as hard in order to get a release for the Americans which have been incarcerated for much longer? Some have been locked up for years. Why does she get to jump the queue to the front of the line? What makes her so special and not the other Americans stuck in foreign jails? Oh yeah, I forgot, she’s a black, lesbian basketball player (which nobody heard of). She’s the flavour of the month!!! How fortunate for her yet so very unfortunate for the others who’ve suffered for much longer. Fuck her.

      1. See, this is a scripted IRA troll template response that you’ll find near verbatim in practically any comment or blog site you care to examine on the internet. Same as all the others here being misidentified as ‘Republicans’ .. this is how Kremlin hybrid warfare works

        1. @asslicker…Please stop with the conspiracy theories. People are just pissed off at the preferential treatment she’s been getting while many other American tourists get locked up every day and the US government doesn’t do a damn thing to help them. What makes this entitled piece of shit so special? When you can give me a reasonable answer I’d love to hear it.

  8. All this talk about people being racist towards Griner is hilarious. Griner’s Mom is white! White as Wonder bread. LMAO!!! Some people are so fucking desperate that they feel compelled to toss out the race card at every chance they get. Even when the person is half white. Unfortunately America is filled with way too many imbeciles. One other thing, when a person is of mixed race, why are they always black? Why not white? Oh yeah, the imbecile factor.

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