WNBA superstar Brittney Griner has been convicted on drug smuggling charges in a Russian court, CNN reports. The US citizen has been sentenced to nine years in Russian prison, per ESPN investigative journalist T.J. Quinn.
Judge Anna Sotnikova of the Khimki city court delivered the sentence and fined Griner 1 million rubles, or about $16,400. Prior to the verdict, Griner apologized to the court and asked for leniency in an emotional speech.
The 31-year-old Olympic gold medalist pleaded guilty to charges last month. Her legal team said this move was an attempt to take responsibility and receive some leniency when convicted.
“I never meant to hurt anybody, I never meant to put in jeopardy the Russian population, I never meant to break any laws here,” Griner said. “I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling that it doesn’t end my life here.”
These drug smuggling charges could’ve resulted in a 10-year sentence. Prosecutors asked for 9.5 years in closing arguments, per CNN. Griner has been held in Russia for more than 160 days since she was arrested at a Moscow airport in February.
She was reported as “wrongfully detained” from the United States government weeks after she was arrested.
While this nine-year sentence is no doubt daunting, the real length of her detention will be determined by the speed in which the U.S. and Russian governments work out a prisoner swap.
The US State Department maintains Griner is wrongfully detained. Her supporters have called for her release and asked the US to take further steps to try to free her from the country, perhaps as part of a proposed prisoner swap.
Griner’s lawyers, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, said in a written statement the court ignored all the evidence they presented and that they will appeal the decision.