Brittney Griner’s cannabis possession trial has come to a close, with the American basketball star convicted and sentenced to nine years — close to the maximum sentence — in a Russian prison.
During Thursday’s closing arguments, a Russian prosecutor reportedly urged the court to convict Griner and sentence her to a nine-and-a-half-year sentence.
Under Russian law, she was able to face up to 10 years in prison with a conviction.
Russian judges have a great deal of leeway when it comes to handing down a ruling. In this case, Judge Anna Sotnikova ruled that the time Griner has already served since her arrest in February would count towards the sentence.
During her final statements, Griner apologized to her teammates, fans, and cities — both in the United States and Russia — for what she characterized as an “honest mistake” in packing cannabis vape cartridges discovered in her luggage at the Moscow airport.
Russian prosecutors argued that Griner deliberately brought the illegal materials.
Now that the conviction has gone through, the 31-year-old could be subject to a prisoner swap that has climbed to the highest levels of Russian-American diplomacy.
In a joint statement, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said, “Today’s verdict and sentencing is unjustified and unfortunate, but not unexpected and Brittney Griner remains wrongly detained. The WNBA and NBA’s commitment to her safe return has not wavered and it is our hope that we are near the end of this process of finally bringing BG home to the United States.”