A Moscow court denied U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner’s appeal to overturn a nine-year prison sentence for being caught with drugs according to multiple reports.
Authorities in Moscow arrested Griner on Feb. 17 after she attempted to leave the country with marijuana, which her lawyers claimed she used for medicinal purposes but is banned in Russia. The WNBA player and Olympic gold medalist was sentenced on Aug. 4 to nine years in prison and was being held in a penal colony outside Russia’s capital city, from which she participated in the trial via video conference, CBS News reported.
“It terrifies me because, I mean, when you watch movies, like, sometimes those situations don’t end well. Sometimes they never get the person back,” Cherelle Griner, Brittney’s wife, told CBS News. (‘I Voted For You’: Basketball Star Imprisoned Abroad Pleads With Biden To Bring Her Home)
Griner pleaded guilty to charges of drug possession and smuggling in July, but denied malicious intent, according to Reuters.
However, she has attested that she had no criminal intent and inadvertently left the vape canisters containing the medical marijuana product in her luggage, CBS News reported.
“I’d like to plead guilty, your honour. But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law,” Griner told the court, Reuters reported.
Earlier, Griner’s lawyer said she was not expecting “miracles,” according to the Washington Post. However, her lawyers also called the nine-year sentence excessive, and that similar cases had resulted in sentences closer to five years in duration, CBS News reported.
The U.S. State Department said Griner was “wrongfully detained” prior to her conviction, according to a press release.
.@SecBlinken: In the coming days, I expect to speak with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov for the first time since before the war began. I plan to raise an issue that’s a top priority for us: the release of Americans Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner. pic.twitter.com/Gvd9gbB5sU
— Department of State (@StateDept) July 27, 2022
The Biden administration reportedly offered to trade notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for Griner’s freedom along with that of former Marine Paul Whelan in August, but the White House claimed it did not receive a positive response to the proposal from Russia, CBS News reported. Russia slammed the U.S. for disclosing the potential negotiations and said it would pursue the route of “quiet diplomacy.”
Cherelle Griner has called out the Biden administration for failing to put forth the necessary effort to secure Griner’s release, according to CBS. President Joe Biden met with Griner in September to stress the “continued commitment to working through all available avenues to bring Brittney and Paul home safely.”
Russia and the U.S. have cemented hostilities against one another following President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine on Feb. 24, just days after Griner was apprehended.
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