11:20 AM ET
T.J. QuinnESPN Employees Author
- T.J. Quinn joined ESPN in November 2007 as an investigative reporter for ESPN’s Enterprise Unit, which is charged with growing long-form, investigative options to be offered throughout a number of platforms.
A Russian courtroom 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 stated. However she and her supporters have additionally been conscious that Russia was not going to maneuver ahead with a commerce that might convey her dwelling till her trial was accomplished. A responsible verdict was thought-about a foregone conclusion, and Griner pleaded responsible July 7, although the case continued beneath Russian legislation.
Throughout sentencing, Choose Anna Sotnikova stated she had discovered that Griner deliberately broke the legislation. Prosecutors had requested for a 9½-year sentence.
Sotnikova stated the time Griner has served in custody since her arrest in February would rely 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 stated they’d enchantment. The protection workforce stated that in sentencing the courtroom had ignored all proof it had offered and Griner’s responsible plea.
President Joe Biden issued a press release on the decision that referred to Griner as wrongfully detained — a designation U.S. officers have used since Might — and known as for her launch.
“Immediately, American citizen Brittney Griner obtained a jail sentence that’s yet another reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney,” Biden stated. “It is unacceptable, and I name on Russia to launch her instantly so she could be together with her spouse, family members, mates, and teammates.”
Outdoors the courtroom, the U.S. Embassy’s chargé d’affaires Elizabeth Rood known as the decision “a miscarriage of justice.”
WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert and NBA commissioner Adam Silver, in a joint assertion, known as Thursday’s verdict and sentencing “unjustified and unlucky.”
“The WNBA and NBA’s dedication to her secure return has not wavered and it’s our hope that we’re close to the top of this means of lastly bringing BG dwelling to the USA,” they stated.
U.S. officers stated final week that they’ve supplied a deal for Griner’s return, and sources have stated the deal would commerce convicted Russian arms supplier 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, figuring out a responsible verdict was a foregone conclusion and that any deal to ship her dwelling would require an request for forgiveness.
Addressing the courtroom on the finish of her trial and earlier than sentencing Thursday, Griner once more informed the courtroom she made “an trustworthy 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 part that is being stated in opposition to me, the costs which are in opposition to me, and that’s the reason I pled responsible,” Griner stated, addressing the decide via 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 stated. “I made an trustworthy mistake, and I hope that in your ruling, that it would 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 prime spokesman and the deputy minister for international affairs, have insisted that beneath 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 dwelling in April after the international locations agreed to a prisoner swap that American officers sought when Reed was reported to be ill.
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 yr.
The Related Press contributed to this report.