Brittney Griner appeals against Russian drugs sentence

Lorie Shaull

In February, WNBA star Brittney Griner was detailed at a Russian airport. Police discovered hashish oil in her luggage. She was charged with drug smuggling, and she ended up being sentenced to 9 years in a Russian prison.

President Joe Biden feels that Griner’s sentence is “unacceptable.” So does Griner’s legal team.

Griner pled guilty to the charges because, yes, the did indeed have hashish oil in her luggage; however, she claims it was a “mistake.” She told the court, “I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling, that it doesn’t end my life here.”

Griner was detained around the same Russia invaded Ukraine. Griner’s wife feels that she is a “political pawn.” Meanwhile, Griner’s coach feels that the United States would work harder to get her home if it were LeBron James who were detained instead of Griner.

It turns out that the United States is working hard to get Griner home, but the details are being kept private. It’s looking like the discussion is to try to do a prisoner swap where Griner and another American, Paul Whelan, would be swapped with Viktor Bout, who is also known as “The Merchant of Death.”

Griner’s lawyers aren’t waiting around for the United States to get Griner home. They are appealing the Russian court’s decision. Maria Blagovolina is a partner at Rybalkin Gortsunyan Dyakin and Partners law firm. She told Reuters that the appeal was filed, but she did not give any more details. 

Alexander Boikov is one of the lawyers who represented Griner in court. He told Reuters, “We demand to overturn the verdict passed by the Khimki court and impose a new sentence.”

According to Boikov, who is a lawyer at Moscow Legal Center, the appeal is mainly based on violations that were made during the investigation. For example, according to Griner’s legal team, some of the files in her case were not translated in English for her.

Do you think Griner’s legal team will be successful in their appeal? Do you think her prison sentence will be reduced? Do you think the Biden administration will be successful with the prisoner swap negotiations?