A Russian court docket sentenced WNBA star Brittney Griner to 9 years in jail Thursday, an anticipated conclusion to her trial that ought to permit negotiations for a prisoner swap to speed up.
Griner, who was arrested Feb. 17 for bringing hashish into the nation, had been ready for a harsh sentence, sources near the participant mentioned. However she and her supporters have additionally been conscious that Russia was not going to maneuver ahead with a commerce that might deliver her house till her trial was accomplished. A responsible verdict was thought-about a foregone conclusion, and Griner pleaded responsible July 7, although the case continued below Russian legislation.
Throughout sentencing, Decide Anna Sotnikova mentioned she had discovered that Griner deliberately broke the legislation. Prosecutors had requested for a 9½-year sentence.
Sotnikova mentioned the time Griner has served in custody since her arrest in February would depend towards the sentence.
Griner reacted to the sentence with little emotion, listening to the decision with a clean stare on her face.
Griner’s protection legal professionals mentioned they might attraction. The protection staff mentioned that in sentencing the court docket had ignored all proof it had offered and Griner’s responsible plea.
President Joe Biden issued an announcement on the decision that referred to Griner as wrongfully detained — a designation U.S. officers have used since Could — and referred to as for her launch.
“Right this moment, American citizen Brittney Griner acquired a jail sentence that’s yet one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney,” Biden mentioned. “It is unacceptable, and I name on Russia to launch her instantly so she may be with her spouse, family members, pals, and teammates.”
Outdoors the court docket, the U.S. Embassy’s chargé d’affaires Elizabeth Rood referred to as the decision “a miscarriage of justice.”
WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert and NBA commissioner Adam Silver, in a joint assertion, referred to as Thursday’s verdict and sentencing “unjustified and unlucky.”
“The WNBA and NBA’s dedication to her protected return has not wavered and it’s our hope that we’re close to the top of this means of lastly bringing BG house to the US,” they mentioned.
U.S. officers mentioned final week that they’ve supplied a deal for Griner’s return, and sources have mentioned the deal would commerce convicted Russian arms seller Viktor Bout for Griner and fellow American Paul Whelan, who has been in Russian custody since being arrested on espionage prices in December 2018.
Griner’s technique all through the trial was to deal with it as a reputable continuing, understanding a responsible verdict was a foregone conclusion and that any deal to ship her house would require an act of contrition.
Addressing the court docket on the finish of her trial and earlier than sentencing Thursday, Griner once more instructed the court docket she made “an sincere mistake” and talked concerning the sense of accountability she realized from her mother and father rising up in Houston.
“That is why I pled responsible to my prices. I perceive every little thing that is being mentioned towards me, the costs which can be towards me, and that’s the reason I pled responsible,” Griner mentioned, addressing the choose by means of an interpreter from her defendant’s cage. “However I had no intent to interrupt any Russian legal guidelines.”
Griner additionally apologized to her teammates, followers and the town of Ekaterinburg, the place she has performed throughout WNBA offseasons since 2014.
“I by no means meant to harm anyone. I by no means meant to place in jeopardy the Russian inhabitants. I by no means meant to interrupt any legal guidelines right here,” she mentioned. “I made an sincere mistake, and I hope that in your ruling, that it does not finish my life right here.”
Griner additionally addressed the political actuality of her detention: “I do know that everyone retains speaking about ‘political pawn’ and ‘politics,’ however I hope that’s removed from this courtroom.”
Griner’s attorneys had hoped for leniency, however Griner and her supporters know that ultimately, the size of the sentence is merely a formality in negotiations for her launch.
Russian officers, together with the Kremlin’s high spokesman and the deputy minister for overseas affairs, have insisted that below Russian legislation, the nation couldn’t contemplate a deal earlier than she was sentenced.
In comparison with different People who’ve been detained in Russia, her authorized case moved quickly.
Whelan, for instance, was held in pre-trial detention for 18 months earlier than his trial concluded in June 2020. American Trevor Reed was arrested in August 2019 and convicted in July 2020. He got here house in April after the international locations agreed to a prisoner swap that American officers sought when Reed was reported to be unwell.
Reed’s launch was the primary welcome signal to Griner’s supporters that there was a diplomatic channel open between the 2 international locations following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this 12 months.
The Related Press contributed to this report.