Russian prosecutors have asked a court outside Moscow to sentence WNBA star Brittney Griner to 9 1/2 years in prison on cannabis possession charges. The request was made during closing arguments on Thursday, almost six months after Griner was arrested at a Moscow airport.
The Phoenix Mercury center pleaded guilty to the charges last month, and it’s been reported that she could face up to 10 years in prison. The Biden administration offered a deal to the Russian government last week for the release of Griner, a deal that includes bringing the seven-time All-Star and another imprisoned American, Paul Whelan, back to the states in exchange for releasing a Russian arms trafficker currently serving jail time in the U.S.
“Griner’s lawyer Maria Blagovolina said a verdict in the case is expected later Thursday. Blagovolina asked the court to acquit Griner, noting that she had no past criminal record and hailing her role in ‘the development of Russian basketball,'” an ESPN report read. “If the court does deem it necessary to punish her, Blagovolina said, then Griner — who faces a maximum sentence of 10 years — should receive the most lenient punishment.”
Griner’s trial started at the beginning of July. When submitting her guilty plea, she reportedly told a judge that she “inadvertently” brought the hashish oil into Russia, while asking the court for mercy.
“I’d like to plead guilty, your honor. But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law,” Griner told the judge in English, which was then translated into Russian for the court.
The U.S. government declared in early May that Griner was being wrongfully detained. According to an ESPN report, “fewer than 1% of defendants in Russian criminal cases are acquitted, and unlike in the U.S., acquittals can be overturned.”