Brittney Griner is going through a 9-year sentence in a Russian jail following conviction. This is what might come subsequent for the WNBA star


CNN
 — 

After a Russian court sentenced WNBA star Brittney Griner to nine years in prison for a drug smuggling conviction on Thursday, the player’s supporters, teammates and numerous US officials swiftly condemned the decision, many concerned that her detention is being used to advance Russia’s agenda in the Ukraine war.

Now, Griner has returned to the detention center where she was held during her weeks-long trial as her lawyers vow to appeal the sentence and the Biden administration attempts to negotiate for her release.

During the trial, Griner pleaded guilty to carrying less than 1 gram of cannabis oil in her luggage as she traveled through a Moscow airport on February 17. She testified in court that she was aware of Russia’s strict drug laws and had no intention of bringing cannabis into the country, saying she was in a rush and “stress packing.”

Her lawyers had hoped that Griner’s guilty plea and statements of remorse would result in a more lenient sentence. She faced 10 years for the charges and prosecutors requested she be sentenced to 9.5 years in jail. In addition to her nine-year sentence, Griner must pay a fine of 1 million rubles, which is roughly $16,400.

“I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling that it doesn’t end my life here,” Griner said in court prior to the verdict. “I know everybody keeps talking about political pawn and politics, but I hope that that is far from this courtroom.”

The US State Department has classified Griner as wrongfully detained. The Biden administration has offered to trade a convicted Russian arms dealer in exchange for Griner and another American detainee, Paul Whelan, CNN has previously reported. Russia’s foreign minister reportedly indicated to journalists Friday that Moscow was ready to discuss the topic.

After the verdict, Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, tweeted, “Today’s sentencing of Brittney Griner was severe by Russian legal standards and goes to prove what we have known all along, that Brittney is being used as a political pawn.”

In a statement, President Joe Biden said the sentence was “unacceptable” and demanded that she be returned to the US to be reunited with her family.

Here’s what comes next for Griner as she awaits her lawyers’ appeal and the US continues to negotiate for her release.

Griner’s legal team will file an appeal to the court’s decision, which they must do within 10 days of the verdict, according to her lawyers, Alexander Boykov and Maria Blagovolina, who is a partner at Rybalkin, Gortsunyan, Dyakin and Partners law firm.

“We are very disappointed by the verdict. As legal professionals, we believe that the court should be fair to everyone regardless of nationality. The court completely ignored all the evidence of the defense, and most importantly, the guilty plea,” they said in a statement.

They called the verdict “absolutely unreasonable” and insisted in the statement that the decision “contradicts the existing legal practice” in Russia.

Blagovolina told reporters that the average time in jail for this type of crime is five years, adding that almost a third of those convicted get parole.

During the trial, the lawyers argued that Griner’s detention was handled improperly. Griner testified that she was made to sign documents that she did not fully understand and was not given adequate translations of the Russian-language paperwork.

A defense expert also testified that the examination of the vape cartridges containing the cannabis oil did not comply with Russian law.

Last week, CNN reported that the Biden administration has proposed a prisoner swap, offering to exchange a convicted Russian arms trafficker for Griner and Whelan. Whelan, a US citizen and former Marine, was handed a 16-year prison sentence in 2018 on espionage charges after a trial the US deemed unfair.

After Griner’s sentence, National Security Council coordinator John Kirby said that it was “up to the Russian side” on whether the conviction will open the door for prisoner-swap negotiations.

After the US proposed a prisoner swap, Russia countered by requesting that convicted murderer Vadim Krasikov also be released, multiple sources familiar with the discussions have told CNN. The US has not considered the counter as a legitimate proposal, in part because the request was made through an informal backchannel.

Kirby reiterated Thursday that the US’s position remains that it wants Russia to “take the deal on the table because it’s a good one, it’s a fair one, and it’ll help bring Paul (Whelan) and Brittney home.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told journalists at a news conference Friday that officials “are ready to discuss” the prisoners being held by both countries, according to Russian state news agency RIA Novosti.

“There is a specified channel that has been agreed upon by the presidents, and no matter what anyone says publicly, this channel will remain in effect,” Lavrov said, according to RIA Novosti.

While US officials have long opposed prisoner trades, the successful release of Trevor Reed, an American and former Marine who was imprisoned in Russia, garnered bipartisan praise from lawmakers and was considered a political win for the Biden administration.

Photos: WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty Images

Brittney Griner of Team USA looks on during the game against the Team Australia during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on August 4, 2021.

Brittney Griner was born on October 18, 1990, in Houston, Texas. She is the youngest child of Raymond and Sandra Griner.

Photos: WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Brittney Griner/Facebook

Brittney Griner was born on October 18, 1990, in Houston, Texas. She is the youngest child of Raymond and Sandra Griner.

Griner is on a four-wheeler in 7th grade.

Photos: WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Brittney Griner/Facebook

Griner is on a four-wheeler in 7th grade.

Griner attended Nimitz High School, where she broke nearly all school records in basketball.

Photos: WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Brittney Griner/Facebook

Griner attended Nimitz High School, where she broke nearly all school records in basketball.

Griner #42 of Baylor University signs autographs after a game against Louisiana Tech.

Photos: WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Darren Carroll/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

Griner #42 of Baylor University signs autographs after a game against Louisiana Tech.

Griner huddles with teammates in a semifinal game against Connecticut in the Final Four of the NCAA women's college basketball tournament in April 2010 in San Antonio.

Photos: WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Eric Gay/AP

Griner huddles with teammates in a semifinal game against Connecticut in the Final Four of the NCAA women’s college basketball tournament in April 2010 in San Antonio.

Griner goes up for the opening tip in April 2010.

Photos: WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Eric Gay/AP

Griner goes up for the opening tip in April 2010.

Griner celebrates after Baylor defeated the University of Notre Dame 80-61 in the NCAA Championship Game in April of 2012.

Photos: WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos/Getty Images

Griner celebrates after Baylor defeated the University of Notre Dame 80-61 in the NCAA Championship Game in April of 2012.

Griner pumps her fist as President Barack Obama talks about her basketball skills in the East Room of the White House in July 2012.

Photos: WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Griner pumps her fist as President Barack Obama talks about her basketball skills in the East Room of the White House in July 2012.

Griner playing against Iowa State at the Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas, in March 2012.

Photos: WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Greg Nelson/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

Griner playing against Iowa State at the Ferrell Center in Waco, Texas, in March 2012.

Griner huddles with teammates before a game starts in 2012.

Photos: WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Greg Nelson/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

Griner huddles with teammates before a game starts in 2012.

Griner was the No. 1 pick in the 2013 WNBA draft when she was chosen by the Mercury. Her image is shown on a downtown building in Phoenix.

Photos: WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Griner was the No. 1 pick in the 2013 WNBA draft when she was chosen by the Mercury. Her image is shown on a downtown building in Phoenix.

Griner talks with the media after being drafted by the Phoenix Mercury in 2013.

Photos: WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images

Griner talks with the media after being drafted by the Phoenix Mercury in 2013.

Griner takes a photo during the 2013 WNBA All-Star Game at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Photos: WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Chris Marion/NBAE/Getty Images

Griner takes a photo during the 2013 WNBA All-Star Game at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Griner blocks a shot by Skylar Diggins #4 of the Tulsa Shock during the WNBA game at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June 2014.

Photos: WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Shane Bevel/NBAE/Getty Images

Griner blocks a shot by Skylar Diggins #4 of the Tulsa Shock during the WNBA game at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June 2014.

Griner talks with a fan at at Chase Field in Phoenix in May 2014. She threw the ceremonial first pitch for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Photos: WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images

Griner talks with a fan at at Chase Field in Phoenix in May 2014. She threw the ceremonial first pitch for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Griner holds the championship trophy after defeating the Chicago Sky in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals in September 2014 in Chicago.

Photos: WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Griner holds the championship trophy after defeating the Chicago Sky in Game 3 of the WNBA Finals in September 2014 in Chicago.

Griner huddles with a group of kids during a WNBA Fit All-Star Clinic in 2015.

Photos: WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Brian Babineau/NBAE/Getty Images

Griner huddles with a group of kids during a WNBA Fit All-Star Clinic in 2015.

Griner gets fired up before her game against the Minnesota Lynx during Game 2 of the WNBA Western Conference Finals in 2015.

Photos: WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images

Griner gets fired up before her game against the Minnesota Lynx during Game 2 of the WNBA Western Conference Finals in 2015.

President Barack Obama gets a high five from Griner in the East Room at the White House in August 2015. Obama was honoring the Phoenix Mercury players for their victory in the 2014 WNBA Finals.

Photos: WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Olivier Douliery/Getty Images

President Barack Obama gets a high five from Griner in the East Room at the White House in August 2015. Obama was honoring the Phoenix Mercury players for their victory in the 2014 WNBA Finals.

Griner of Team USA walks on the court during a game against Spain at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

Photos: WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Griner of Team USA walks on the court during a game against Spain at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

Griner poses for a selfie with fans in August 2016.

Photos: WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Griner poses for a selfie with fans in August 2016.

Griner during the first half of WNBA game against the Connecticut Sun in July 2018.

Photos: WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Griner during the first half of WNBA game against the Connecticut Sun in July 2018.

Griner reacts after a 3-point basket during game against the Atlanta Dream in August 2020.

Photos: WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Griner reacts after a 3-point basket during game against the Atlanta Dream in August 2020.

Griner takes a selfie with her teammates and their gold medals during the Olympics medal ceremony in August 2021 in Saitama, Japan.

Photos: WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Griner takes a selfie with her teammates and their gold medals during the Olympics medal ceremony in August 2021 in Saitama, Japan.

Griner kisses her wife Cherelle Griner after the Mercury defeated the Las Vegas Aces 87-84 in Game 5 of the 2021 WNBA Playoffs semifinals to win the series in October 2021.

Photos: WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Griner kisses her wife Cherelle Griner after the Mercury defeated the Las Vegas Aces 87-84 in Game 5 of the 2021 WNBA Playoffs semifinals to win the series in October 2021.

A mural of Griner outside the Footprint Center in Phoenix. The two-time Olympic basketball gold medalist and WNBA star was arrested in February of 2022 after Russian customs officials allegedly detected cannabis oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow.<br />” class=”gallery-image__dam-img”/></p>
<p>
            <strong>Photos:</strong> WNBA Star Brittney Griner
        </p>
<p>
                Rebecca Noble/The New York Times/Redux
        </p>
<p>
                A mural of Griner outside the Footprint Center in Phoenix. The two-time Olympic basketball gold medalist and WNBA star was arrested in February of 2022 after Russian customs officials allegedly detected cannabis oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow.</p>
<p>            <img src=

Photos: WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP/Getty Images

Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court outside Moscow on June 27, 2022.

Griner holds photographs standing inside a defendants' cage before a hearing on July 26, 2022.

Photos: WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

Griner holds photographs standing inside a defendants’ cage before a hearing on July 26, 2022.

Griner sits inside a defendants' cage on August 4 before she was sentenced to nine years of jail time.

Photos: WNBA Star Brittney Griner

Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool/Reuters

Griner sits inside a defendants’ cage on August 4 before she was sentenced to nine years of jail time.

The swap proposal follows months of pressure from Griner’s family and members of the basketball community.

The star’s wife, Cherelle Griner, has been outspoken about her desire for US officials to take more substantial action to bring her wife home. Days after Cherelle Griner expressed frustrations in an interview with CNN, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris held a call with her to reassure her they were committed to securing her wife’s release, according to a White House call readout.

Griner has also had the steady support of her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury, as well as other members of the basketball community.

Before the start of a game Thursday night between the Mercury and Connecticut Sun, members of both teams linked arms in the center of the court and held a 42-second moment of silence for Griner, who wears 42 on her jersey. After it ended, people in the crowd started chanting, “Bring her home! Bring her home!”

Comments are closed.