On Thursday, a Russian court found Brittney Griner guilty of attempted drug smuggling and possession. According to CNN, the guilty verdict says Brittney had criminal intent when she attempted to enter the country with less than 1 gram of cannabis oil in her luggage.
Before the conviction, Russian prosecutors asked the court to consider giving the WNBA star 9.5 years in their closing. Shortly after news of the verdict broke, Brittney’s lawyers confirmed the Russian court obliged the prosecutors’ request. As a result, she was sentenced to nine years in a penal colony, per The New York Times. Additionally, the judge fined Brittney about $16,300–one million rubles.
Brittney Apologized & Denied Criminal Intent Prior To Verdict
This verdict comes after Brittney pled guilty in early July. At the time, she said, “I’d like to plead guilty, your honor, but there was no intent, I didn’t break the law.” She again spoke to the court during Thursday’s closing arguments.
“I never meant to hurt anybody, I never meant to put in jeopardy the Russian population, I never meant to break any laws here,” Brittney said. “I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling that it doesn’t end my life here.”
As previously reported, customs officials detained Brittney in February at a Moscow airport. They had found two vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her baggage. In May, the United States declared that Brittney was “wrongfully detained,” but that did little to aid her case.
Concerns that Russia is using Brittney as a political prisoner bubbled almost immediately after the news of her arrest. However, Russian President Vladimir Putin denied those allegations. Speaking through a rep named Dmitry Peskov, the president said Brittney “violated Russian law” regarding hashish oil, and the case is “not about being a hostage.” Brittney addressed this commentary in court on Thursday.
“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.”
Officials Say Verdict May Lead To Possible Exchange Of Prisoners
We previously reported that the Biden administration was considering a prisoner trade with Russia. A senior admin official told CNN that they communicated their offer in June. Apparently, the U.S. offered Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout in exchange for Brittney and former Marine Paul Whelan, who was arrested in 2018.
According to The New York Times, Moscow officials said a prisoner exchange wouldn’t be possible until after the verdict. Following the verdict news, President Biden issued a statement reiterating the wrongful conviction of Brittney.
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