After over a month of court hearings, a judge handed down the verdict for WNBA star Brittney Griner’s drug case on Thursday (August 4), CNN reports.
Brittney Griner, 31, was found guilty of drug smuggling with criminal intent. She has been sentenced to 9 years in prison.
Griner arrived at a Moscow courthouse handcuffed and was taken into the defendant’s cage by Russian authorities for her last court hearing on Thursday.
Once uncuffed, she held up a picture of the UMMC Ekaterinburg basketball team, the squad she played for in Russia during the WNBA offseason.
“I want to apologize to my teammates, my club, my fans and the city of [Yekaterinburg] for my mistake that I made and the embarrassment that I brought on them,” the two-time Olympic gold medalist said in court Thursday.
“I want to also apologize to my parents, my siblings, the Phoenix Mercury organization back at home, the amazing women of the WNBA, and my amazing spouse back at home.”
Russian prosecutors asked the court for 9.5 years of jail time as closing arguments for the case were heard Thursday.
Griner’s lawyer Maria Blagovolina argued that the Phoenix Mercury guard never used marijuana in Russia and never intended to.
The 31-year-old pro basketball player only used medical marijuana at home in Arizona, where it was legal, and only by prescription of a doctor, Blagovolina added during closing arguments.
Griner couldn’t have known how strict Russian laws were, the lawyer said.
The verdict and sentencing comes nearly six months after Griner was first detained in Russia. On February 17, Russian authorities took her into custody after allegedly finding vape catridges with cannibis oil in her bag at Moscow airport.
Griner’s trial began on July 1, and since then, the WNBA star pleaded guilty to drug charges, admitting to unintentionally bringing cannabis into the country. She faces up to 10 years in prison for the Russian offense.
The U.S. State Department maintains Griner is wrongfully detained, and the Biden administration has proposed a prisoner swap to secure her release, per CNN.
Last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken revealed that the U.S. government had put a “substantial proposal on the table” to bring Griner back to the U.S “weeks ago.”
A senior White House official told CNN that the proposal was to exchange convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for Griner and jailed American Paul Whelan.
This story is developing and will be updated.
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