A sunset in Russia

“Today, U.S. citizen-athlete Brittney Griner, who is admired by millions of fans in the United States as well as here in Russia, was sentenced to nine years in prison for nothing more than an unintentional oversight.”

Deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Elizabeth Rood, after American professional women's basketball player Brittney Griner — who is "wrongfully detained" in Russia — was found guilty of attempting to illegally smuggle drugs into Russia.

Published on

aug 4, 2022

Why It Matters: On Thursday, Brittney Griner (31) — one of the top U.S. women's basketball players, who also plays for a Russian team during off seasons — was found guilty of attempting to illegally smuggle drugs into Russia; she was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony and fined around $16,700 USD.

There is currently an offer on the table for a prisoner swap between the U.S. and Russia to bring home Griner and Paul Whelan (another American "wrongfully detained" in Russia).

  • Background: Just before Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Griner was detained at an airport in Moscow after authorities found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage; cannabis substances are illegal in Russia.
  • Griner previously pled guilty, but explained she had no intent to break Russian law; she said she had been packing in a rush and accidentally put the cartridges into her bags. During her trial, her lawyers presented evidence that Griner had a prescription to use medicinal cannabis in the U.S. for treating pain.
  • Some have expressed concerns about Russia using Griner "as a political pawn." Following the conviction, her lawyers said in a statement: "We are very disappointed by the verdict. As legal professionals, we believe that the court should be fair to everyone regardless of nationality. The court completely ignored all the evidence of the defense ... the verdict is absolutely unreasonable. We will certainly file an appeal."

Something To Consider: According to The Associated Press, "A conviction is usually needed before arranging a prisoner exchange ... [Russian] Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said last month that the 'necessary judicial procedures' must be completed" prior to any other steps.

Live Updates: Brittney Griner Is Sentenced to 9 Years in a Russian Penal Colony (New York Times)

Click HERE to learn more about Brittney Griner and why she was detained.

Russia Rising Tension (SmartHER News)

Brittney Griner sentenced to 9 years in Russian drug trial (Axios)

Statement by President Joe Biden on the Sentencing of Wrongfully Detained American Brittney Griner (The White House)

Conviction and Sentencing of U.S. Citizen Brittney Griner in Russia (U.S. Department of State)

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