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Brittney Griner on 9-year prison sentence: ‘People with more severe crimes have gotten less than what I was given’

Brittney Griner
James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

The unfortunate news that WNBA star Brittney Griner did not win her appeal over her 9-year prison sentence made the rounds on Tuesday.

It is the latest tragic chapter in the story that began early this year when Griner was arrested in a Russian airport for having a tiny amount of hashish oil in her possession.

In a recent statement that Griner herself read in a video, she discussed the mental effects that she has endured as a result of her now eight-month detention. She added that the punishment that she is currently serving in no ways fits the crime.

“This has been very traumatic experience, waiting for this day, waiting for the first court, and getting nine years for a crime that I was barely over the significant amount,” Griner said on Tuesday. “I don’t understand the first court’s decision to give one year less than the max when I’ve been here almost 8 months, and people with more severe crimes have gotten less than what I was given. … I really hope that the court will adjust this sentence, because it’s been very, very stressful and very traumatic to my mental and psyche, being away from my family and not being able to communicate.”

She added that her intention was never to commit a crime.

“I did not intend to do this,” she said before asking the court to take into account the fact that she had pleaded guilty.

The sad reality is that the way Russia has dealt with Griner’s criminal case may not have much to do with what she actually did at all.

At this point, the general understanding is that Griner is being used as something of a high-profile hostage as Russia continues to try to negotiate itself out of the harsh economic sanctions that the United States has levied upon it since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.

The good news is that President Joe Biden and his administration seem to be committed to trying to find a way to negotiate Griner’s freedom.

Last week, CNN reported that the Biden administration has been in touch with Russia to discuss the release of both Griner and American citizen Paul Whelan, who is currently being held on charges related to espionage.

However, that may not indicate that a deal is close to being agreed upon.

“We have worked hard to try to demonstrate the sorts of things that could well be the basis for resolving this and each time we have articulated that it’s been met not with a serious counteroffer,” a Biden official said.

The official added that while Russia has been responsive, it does not seem like it’s taking the situation all that seriously.

“They’re not non-responsive,” the official said of the Russian response. “I would say that they continue to respond with something that they know not to be feasible or available.”

That is surely very disturbing news for people who are closely following Griner’s case. Hopefully a breakthrough comes in the near future.

Until then, Griner is sure to continue to do what she can to try to receive an early release from her current sentence.


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