Russian court rejects Brittney Griner’s appeal against her 9-year prison sentence

A Russian court denied on Tuesday WNBA Star Brittney Griner to appeal and maintained it nine-year prison sentence on drug charges.

Griner, 32, looked crestfallen as she appeared for the hearing at the Moscow Regional Court via video link from the detention center where she has been held since her arrest in February. The athlete should now be transferred to a penal colony.

Griner’s sentencing in August was decried by the United States, which said the athlete was wrongfully detained. Denying his appeal will shift Griner’s hopes of release to the possibility of a high-profile prisoner exchange.

In a statement read to the court, Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who plays for the Phoenix Mercury, said she “did not intend to do this” but understood the charges against her. She said she hoped it would be taken into account that she “pleaded guilty” in the case.

The athlete said she hoped the court would adjust her sentence as she described her time behind bars as “stressful” and “traumatic”.

The WNBA star had been “pretty pessimistic about the outcome” of the call ahead of Tuesday’s hearing, one of his lawyers, Maria Blagovolina, said Monday.

Griner had hoped there would be a reduction in his sentence, but did not believe the verdict would be overturned, Blagovolina said on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports.”

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who plays for the Phoenix Mercury, was sentenced in August to nine years in prison for drug trafficking.

She was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport in February after Russian authorities said they found vaping cartridges containing cannabis oil in his luggage.

grinning pleaded guilty in July, but said it was an accident, that she had brought them to Russia unintentionally, and that she had hastily packed for a flight. medical marijuanawhich is illegal in Russia, is legal in most of the United States

US officials say Griner is being wrongfully detained. State Department spokesman Ned Price called the court proceedings “largely chaotic” on Monday.

“Wrongful detainees are by definition wrongfully detained. They are used as political pawns, as leverage,” Price said. “Our goal is to get them home as soon as possible.”

Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, said Brittney Griner is held hostage.

United States has proposed an exchange of prisoners with Russia for the release of Griner and another American, Paul Whelan, a business executive who has been detained there since 2018, two sources familiar with the matter said. Deal reportedly includes US release of imprisoned Russian arms dealer Victor Boutthe sources said.

When she was detained, Griner was in Russia playing for a Russian women’s Premier League team, UMMC Yekaterinburg, as she had done since 2014.

Lawyers for Griner filed an appeal in August, after his sentencing.

In April, Russia released American Trevor Reed in exchange for the release by the United States of Russian drug trafficker Konstantin Yaroshenko, who had been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Reedformer sailor, was sentenced to nine years in jail in Russia in 2020 after authorities said he assaulted a Russian police officer after a night of drinking. Reed and his family have maintained his innocence.

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