Brittney Griner Sentenced to 9 Years in Russian Prison

Brittney Griner is now in danger of serving a significant amount of time in prison for drug possession in Russia. According to USA Today, a Russian judge sentenced the WNBA star and two-time United States Olympic Gold medalist to nine years in a penal colony after being found guilty of drug possession. Griner was arrested in February at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport after Russian authorities discovered vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage. She has played for the Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg since 2014. 

"The hard work that my parents instilled in me is what brought me to play for the best EuroLeague and Russian team here in Ekaterinburg," Griner said on Thursday. "I want to apologize to my teammates, the club, the fans and the city of (Ekaterinburg for) the mistake that I made and the embarrassment I brought. This is my second home. All I wanted to do was win a championship and make them proud." 

Now that the trial has ended, the Joe Biden administration can ramp up negotiations with Russia to free Griner. In May, the U.S. State Department classified Griner as "wrongfully detained" and her case was moved to the Office of Special Presidental Envoy for Hostage Affairs. The U.S. is looking to secure the early release of Griner and American Paul Whelan via prison swap. The State Department revealed that the swap revolved around Russian Arms dealing Viktor Bout, nicknamed "The Merchant of Death."

In July, CBS News spoke to Griner's wife Cherelle, who shared her reaction to the news of Griner being charged for a "large-scale transportation of drugs," by the Russian government. "It blew my mind because I'm like large-scale? I live with B.G. every day, and so there's no way possible. So I knew it wasn't true the minute that I heard the charge because I know my wife. I'm like, no," she said "It's very unfortunate, you know, that she's in this position because B.G. does not large-scale do anything in traffic of drugs. It was very very hard to hear that charge."  

Griner, 31, plays for the Phoenix Mercury of the WNBA and has been with the team since 2013. In her career, Griner has won the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year Award twice, led the league in blocks eight times, played in the All-Star game eight times and led the Mercury to a WNBA Championship in 2014.