American WNBA star Brittney Griner has been sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison on charges of smuggling drugs with criminal intent.
The Russian judge threw the book at Griner, who was facing a maximum of ten years after pleading guilty to the charges last month.
The severe sentencing has come at the worst time in American and Russian relations in decades.
Russian President Vladimir Putin wants a huge price in a prisoner exchange for Griner, one Democrat President Joe Biden may not be able to meet.
Biden has offered to release a dangerous arms dealer, known as the “Merchant of Death,” in exchange for Griner.
However, Russia sees Griner as a valuable asset and is pushing for more.
Russin prosecutors asked for 9.5 years in a Russian prison.
Prior to the verdict, Griner begged the court 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.
“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,” she said.
“I did not conspire or plan to commit this crime.”
Russia gives Brittney Griner NINE years. Griner was arrested with less than 1 gram of cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s airport on February 17th.
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) August 4, 2022
President Biden slams Griner’s 9-year prison sentence as “one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney.”
“It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately” pic.twitter.com/LkLnMQXor3
— Jeremy Diamond (@JDiamond1) August 4, 2022
Basketball star Brittney Griner was sentenced to 9 years in a Russian prison after being convicted on drug charges by a Moscow court Thursday.
Prosecutors asked for a sentence of 9 1/2 years after closing arguments in a lengthy trial that has underscored frayed relations between the United States and Russia since the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Griner pleaded guilty last month to charges that carry a maximum sentence of 10 years.
In a final plea for leniency on Thursday, an emotional Griner apologized and repeated that she never intended to break any Russian laws but had made “an honest mistake.”
Just hours later, Judge Anna Sotnikova returned to announce she had been found guilty of drug possession and smuggling. Griner will also have to pay a 1 million ruble ($16,590) fine, but can appeal the verdict.
Russian prosecutors have asked a court outside Moscow to sentence Brittney Griner to 9½ years in prison on cannabis possession charges.
The prosecutors’ request was made during closing arguments Thursday in Griner’s trial, nearly six months after the American basketball star was arrested at a Moscow airport in a case that has reached the highest levels of U.S.-Russia diplomacy.
Griner also addressed the judge Thursday, saying that she “never meant to break any law” in Russia by having vape cartridges with cannabis oil in her luggage at the time of her arrest Feb. 17 and that it was an honest mistake.