WNBA star Brittney Griner has been sentenced to nine years in prison by Russian judge Anna Sotnikova after months of being detained for allegedly smuggling hashish oil into the European nation.
According to reports, Judge Sotnikova convicted and sentenced the Phoenix Mercury center to nine years in prison on Aug. 4 for drug possession and smuggling. She noted that the time Griner has served in custody since her arrest in February would count towards her harsh sentence.
Earlier in court, Griner made a final appeal saying she had no intention of breaking Russian law when she flew to Moscow to play basketball in Yekaterinburg. The eight-time WNBA all-star and two-time U.S. Olympic champion has reportedly played for UMMC Ekaterinburg during the American league’s offseason.
“I want to apologize to my teammates, my club, my fans, and the city of (Yekaterinburg) for my mistake that I made and the embarrassment that I brought on them,” an emotional Griner said in court. “I want to also apologize to my parents, my siblings, the Phoenix Mercury organization back at home, the amazing women of the WNBA, and my amazing spouse back at home.”
Judge Sotnikova also reportedly fined the 31-year-old one million rubles–about $16,700 in U.S. currency–as Prosecutor Nikolai Vlasenko insisted that Griner deliberately put cannabis oil in her luggage. However, the basketball player’s lawyers said she had no criminal intent and that the vape cartridges ended up in her luggage by mistake.
Griner has been detained in Russia since Feb. 17, after customs officials claimed she attempted to sneak vape cartridges containing hashish oil into their country. They recalled searching her belongings and allegedly finding the cartridges at the Sheremetyevo International Airport airport in Moscow.
President Joe Biden reportedly condemned the verdict in the sports star’s case, calling her sentence “unacceptable.”
“I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates,” Biden said. He added that he would continue to work on bringing Griner back to America.
Back in May, the U.S. State Department declared Griner as “wrongfully detained.”