Brittney Griner’s bid to appeal her nine-year sentence on drug charges was rejected by a Russian court on Tuesday.
In a statement following the rejected appeal published by ESPN, Griner’s legal team expressed disappointment at the decision, saying the result was “not what we expected.”
The statement alleged that the guilty verdict “contains numerous defects,” and that the team had “hoped that the court of appeal would take them into consideration.”
Griner had been arrested at a Russian airport in February after cannabis oil was found in her possession. She pleaded guilty to the charges in July although denied that she had intended to break Russian law. Although her defense requested an acquittal, Griner was found guilty by a Russian court in August and sentenced to nine and a half years in prison.
Although it rejected her appeal, the court did take into consideration Griner’s time served while in detention, and recalculated that she serve eight years of the sentence, ESPN reports.
The sentence “is excessive and contradicts … the existing court practices,” Griner’s legal team alleged in Tuesday’s statement.
U.S officials believe that Griner’s detention and imprisonment are grounded in political rather than legal reasons, a position the Biden Administration has held since May, when the State Department reclassified Griner as “wrongfully detained.”
In a statement released from the White House following the failed appeal, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan echoed this position, saying that Griner will continue to be “wrongfully detained under intolerable circumstances after having to undergo another sham judicial proceeding.”
He added that the Biden Administration continues to work for the release of Griner and fellow American Paul Whelan, who is also detained in Russia.
“The President has demonstrated that he is willing to go to extraordinary lengths and make tough decisions to bring Americans home,” he continued, “as his Administration has done successfully from countries around the world.”
He did not specify which countries, or elaborate on what efforts the Administration is making on behalf of Griner and Whelan.
A Russian official earlier this month said that the country does not plan on releasing Griner anytime soon, and that efforts on behalf of President Biden were political, motivated by the approaching U.S. midterm elections.