Houston-born basketball star Brittney Griner's plea to end 9-year sentence in Russia rejected
Houston-born Brittney Griner won't get her wish to end her nine-year prison sentence in Russia.
On Tuesday, October 25, a Russian court rejected the American basketball star's appeal to bring her imprisonment for drug possession to a close.
In the ruling, the court stated that the time Griner will have to serve in prison will be recalculated with her time in pretrial detention taken into account, meaning Griner will serve about eight years in prison. (One day in pre-trial detention will be counted as 1.5 days in prison, per the court.)
This result was "not what we expected," Griner's attorneys, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, said via a statement, per ESPN. "The verdict contains numerous defects and we hoped that the court of appeal would take them into consideration. We still think the punishment is excessive and contradicts to the existing court practice."
Griner took part in the Moscow Regional Court hearing via video call from a penal colony outside Moscow where she is currently incarcerated.
As CultureMap reported, Griner, an eight-time all-star center with the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was found guilty of drug possession in a Russian court on August 4 after police said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport in February.
The six-foot-nine basketball star tearfully begged a judge for leniency on August 4 in Khimki, Russia. The court, however, believed that the 31-year-old Griner deliberately brought cannabis-infused vape cartridges into Russia, which is illegal there.
Her February arrest came at a time of heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington, just days before Russia sent troops into Ukraine. At the time, Griner was returning to Russia, where she played during the U.S. league's offseason.
The Biden administration then offered to send convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, who is currently in the U.S. serving a 25-year prison sentence, in exchange for Griner and fellow detained American Paul Whelan. That deal was also nixed by Russia.
As ESPN notes, U.S. officials have stated they believe a prisoner swap will eventually occur, but have expressed frustration over what they say is Russia's failure to respond to the "significant" previous offer.
For now, Griner must wait as the world debates the legitimacy of her incarceration — one marked with political, ethnic, and sexual (she is married to a woman, Cherelle Griner) overtones.