Brittney Griner, the WNBA star who is currently sitting in a Russian prison cell for possession of cannabis, has been sentenced to serve nine years in prison.
Griner did not flinch as she was given her sentence and the basketball star is also required to pay a fine of $16,300.
The proceedings took place at the Khimki court, just outside of Moscow and Griner, who is only 31, will now spend the bulk of her 30s in prison.
The White House released a statement on behalf of President Biden upon hearing of the sentence.
“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,” the statement read. “It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates.”
Biden vowed to “work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue” to bring Griner and American Paul Whelan, who is also jailed in Russia, home “as soon as possible.”
“Maybe we’ll hear something. I don’t know. It has not been discussed with us,” attorney Maria Blagovolina said
White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters that an offer made by the United States, which was rumored to be a swap of both Griner and Whelan, for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, was still a possibility.
“We’re still open to having our proposal seriously and positively considered,” Kirby said Thursday. “We want them to take the offer that’s on the table because it’s a good one, it’s a fair one and it’ll help to bring Paul and Brittney home”
“Conversations are ongoing on multiple levels,” he said.
Griner’s attorneys said they were already planning the appeal and that Griner was feeling “disheartened” by the verdict.
“We certainly believe this sentencing does not match the act that was committed,” Blagovolina said. “Moreover, it goes completely against legal precedent related to this statute, taking into consideration the quantity (of cannabis) and Griner’s admission of guilt.”
She added: “We are definitely going to appeal. We certainly disagree, are surprised and disappointed with the Khimki court’s ruling today.”
During her trial, Griner said the cannabis product found her bag was an honest mistake:
“I want the court to understand that this was an honest mistake that I made while rushing, under stress, trying to recover from COVID and just trying to get back to my team,” Griner said
“I know everybody keeps talking about political pawn and politics, but I hope that is far from this courtroom,” she continued. “I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling, that it doesn’t end my life here.”
Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary said on Thursday that Russia should accept the US offer of a swap.
“We urge Russia to accept that proposal,” she said at a White House press briefing. “I’m not able to share more publicly at this time, but we are willing to take every step necessary to bring home our people, as we demonstrated with Trevor Reed. And that’s what we’re going to do here. I can assure you, that this is something the President and our national security team are focused on every single day.”