Updated 11:49 a.m. EST.
A Russian court has found Brittney Griner guilty on drug charges which the judge said she had committed deliberately. Griner has been sentenced to nine years in prison.
The verdict and sentence came on Thursday following closing arguments in the case. Griner, herself, had the last word, closing out her defense with an apology to her wife, her family, and her teammates in both the WNBA and Russian Premier League, for which she plays in the WNBA off-season. “I never meant to hurt anybody,” she told the court, as reported by Yahoo! Sports. “I never meant to put in jeopardy the Russian population. I never meant to break any laws here. I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling that it doesn’t end my life here.”
Griner had been detained in February after authorities at a Moscow airport allegedly confiscated cannabis in her luggage. Griner pleaded guilty to the charges, but denied that she had any intent to break the law. During the trial, her legal team revealed that she had been prescribed medical cannabis by her doctor.
With her conviction, Griner could face a maximum of 10 years in prison. In closing arguments, prosecutors requested she be sentenced to 9 ½ years.
The defense requested an acquittal, arguing that Griner has no prior criminal history and has made valuable contributions to “the development of Russian basketball,” ESPN reports.
In May, the U.S. State Department classified Griner as “wrongfully detained,” meaning that it believes the charges against her are irrelevant to her detainment. In July, it offered to exchange both Griner and Paul Whelan, another American currently imprisoned in Russia, for arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year sentence in the U.S. Russia did not agree to the exchange.
In a statement Thursday, President Biden called the sentence “unacceptable,” adding that it is “one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney Griner.”
He vowed that his administration “will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”
This is a developing story. GO will continue to post updates as they become available.