Brittney Griner ‘Devastated’ After Sentenced to 9 Years in Russian Prison
Brittney Griner’s lawyer says the WNBA star is “devastated” after a Russian court sentenced her to nine years in prison on drug smuggling charges.
“She’s devastated. She is very upset and she’s honestly quite shocked, so she needs to digest what happened today,” Griner’s lawyers — Maria Blagovolina, tells PEOPLE.
On Thursday, Griner was found guilty by a Russian court of smuggling drugs into the country with criminal intent. She was sentenced to 9 years in prison, PEOPLE reports.
Griner has been detained in Russia since February on accusations of smuggling cannabis oil, which is illegal in the country. Last month, she pleaded guilty to drug charges. “I was in a rush packing and the cartridges accidentally ended up in my bag,” Griner told the court in Khimki, BBC reports.
As reported by CNN, prior to the verdict, Griner apologized to the court and asked for leniency.
“I never meant to hurt anybody, I never meant to put in jeopardy the Russian population, I never meant to break any laws here,” Griner said in the Khimki city courthouse, near Moscow. “I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling that it doesn’t end my life here. I know everybody keeps talking about political pawn and politics, but I hope that that is far from this courtroom.
“I want to say again that I had no intent on breaking any Russian laws. I had no intent. I did not conspire or plan to commit this crime,” she added.
According to Blagovolina, Griner has not yet been able to speak with her wife or friends and family since the ruling.
“So nine years, it’s pretty unusual and it contradicts the existing court practice in Russia,” Blagovolina said. “That’s why we are really disappointed and very much surprised by this decision of the court.”
President Joe Biden reacted to the verdict, saying: “Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney. It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates.”
He said the White House will pursue “every possible avenue” to bring her home.