A Russian court on Tuesday upheld a
Griner, a star center with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and two-time Olympic gold medalist, pleaded guilty at her trial but denied an intent to break the law, explaining that she did not know the vape cartridges were in her suitcase when she packed it. The court sentenced Griner to 9½ years in prison, just under the maximum sentence of 10 years, and levied a fine of one million rubles (about $16,590).
After her conviction, Griner’s lawyers, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, argued that the sentence was excessive, noting that the average sentence for defendants in similar cases is about five years. They also noted that about a third of defendants are granted parole in their cases.
At an appeal hearing on Tuesday, however, the court upheld the sentence as handed down. Griner was not in the Moscow Regional Court for the hearing, but instead appeared via a videolink from a penal colony where she is being held.
A ‘Failure of Justice’
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the decision “another failure of justice, compounding the injustice of her detention,” adding that “securing her release is our priority.”
Although the Russian court upheld the nine-year prison sentence, the judge ruled that Griner will be credited with the time she spent in detention while awaiting trial. She will be allowed one-and-a-half days of credit for each day served in pre-trial detention, but will still have about eight years of her sentence remaining.
After the hearing, Blagovolina and Boykov wrote in an email that they were “very disappointed” with the decision to deny Griner’s appeal, because they still believe “the punishment is excessive and contradicts to the existing court practice,”
Brittney Griner’s Appeal Denied After February Arrest
The arrest came at a time of increasing tension between Russia and the international community over the country’s provocations that culminated with the invasion of Ukraine on February 24. The U.S. State Department has classified
After news of the failure of Griner’s appeal broke, White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan expressed the Biden administration’s support for the WNBA star and Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine being held in Russia on espionage charges.
“In recent weeks, the Biden-Harris Administration has continued to engage with Russia through every available channel and make every effort to bring home Brittney as well as to support and advocate for other Americans detained in Russia, including fellow wrongful detainee Paul Whelan,”
“The President has demonstrated that he is willing to go to extraordinary lengths and make tough decisions to bring Americans home, as his Administration has done successfully from countries around the world. The Administration remains in regular touch with representatives of the families, and we continue to admire their courage in the face of these unimaginable circumstances.”