WNBA star Brittney Griner has been sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison and fined more than $16,000 for allegedly smuggling drugs into the country.
Brittney was arrested in February at the Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow with less than one gram of cannabis oil in her luggage. She later pleaded guilty to drug charges in hopes of receiving leniency.
After learning her fate, Brittney told a CNN producer, “I love my family,” as she left the courtroom. The 31-year-old has been married to Cherelle Griner since 2019.
Her lawyers told People in a statement that the sentence was “unreasonable” and that they planned to file an appeal.
Before the sentence was handed down, CNN says Griner told the court, “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.”
She added, “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.”
President Joe Biden called the ruling “unacceptable,” explaining, “Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney.”
He continued, “It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates. My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”
Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the White House had offered a “substantial” deal to secure the release of Griner and Whelan, another American detainee. The White House confirmed to People that they are still doing everything possible to bring them home.