Report: Moscow Regional Court Upholds Brittney Griner Conviction

Olympics: Basketball-Women Semifinal - USA-SRB
Kareem Elgazzar-USA TODAY Sports

The appeal of WNBA star Brittney Griner has been denied by a Russian Court on Tuesday. Griner attempted to appeal her nine-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to narcotics possession and smuggling charges during her drug trial. During the trial, Griner testified that she had no criminal intent. Officials say Griner’s appeal hearing was held via zoom call, with the WNBA player speaking from behind the bars of the jail cell she has been detained in since February. Griner is located in a detention center just outside of Moscow.

Griner called her situation “traumatic” when speaking to the court about how she’s being kept away from her family. She pleaded for the court to reassess what went “overlooked” during her last drug trial and give her a lesser sentence.

“I’ve been here almost eight months, and people with more severe crimes have been given less than what I was given. I really hope the court will adjust this sentence because it has been very, very stressful and very traumatic to my mental and my psyche and being away from my family, not being able to communicate.”

Additionally, Griner’s lawyers Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov argued that the imposed sentencing is excessive and “absolutely unreasonable” in comparison to other similar cases that took place on Russian soil. Attorney Blagovolina presented a U.S doctor’s note during Griner’s trial, stating that the player was told to use cannabis for medical purposes to treat pain.

They also said that the ruling completely overlooks the fact that the amount of cannabis oils found in her luggage was small. U.S. officials called the ruling a “miscarriage of justice”, and used the appeal hearing to further justify their statements of Griner being wrongfully detained. With her legal options exhausted, her chances of returning home lie solely with the Biden Administration and its prisoner exchange talks with Russia.

Officials say the administration has offered Russian Arms Dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for Griner, and Paul Whelan. Whelan has been detained at a hostel in Moscow. He was arrested on alleged espionage charges. Whelan was sentenced to 16 years in prison after being convicted of the charges in June 2020.

“This quite sensitive issue of the swap of convicted Russian and US citizens is being discussed through the channels defined by our Presidents,” Director of the North American Department, Alexander Darchiev said in a statement. “These individuals are, indeed, being discussed. The Russian side has long been seeking the release of Viktor Bout. The details should be left to professionals, proceeding from the ‘do not harm’ principle.”

CNN has more HERE.