Brittney Griner has been sentenced to almost a decade in Russian prison after being convicted of drug smuggling with criminal intent.
A Russian judge on Thursday handed down the sentence for the WNBA star, who has been in custody for over five months after being arrested with cannabis vape cartridges in her luggage.
During her trial, Griner's legal team said she did not intentionally smuggle drugs into the country. "I had no intention on breaking any Russian law," she said. "I was in a rush packing and the cartridges accidentally ended up in my bags." Her attorneys also showed evidence she was prescribed medical cannabis due to chronic pain.
Griner's conviction was expected, as she had already pleaded guilty. Prosecutors asked the judge to sentence her to nine-and-a-half years in prison.
The United States, which has classified Griner as wrongfully detained, is attempting to negotiate a prisoner swap with Russia. According to CNN, the Biden administration has proposed swapping convicted Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout with both Griner and Paul Whelan, another American being held in Russia. The Russian government has reportedly requested that Vadim Krasikov, a convicted murderer, be added to the swap.
President Biden on Friday called Griner's sentence "unacceptable" and "one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney." He also called on Russia to "release her immediately" and vowed to "continue to work tirelessly" to bring her home.