Brittney Griner: Here are the legal options available for WNBA star jailed for 9 years in Russia
Brittney Griner was arrested this year in February after the police reportedly found cannabis oil in her bags. While she pleaded guilty in July to a drug smuggling charge, she said that she never intended to violate Russian law. While her prison term was expected to be up to 10 years, she was sentenced to a whopping 9 years in a Russian prison on Thursday, August 4, and Griner's legal team is not happy with the sentencing. What are Griner's legal options from here on?
The 31-year-old WNBA star's legal team, comprising Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, told People hours after the judgment was handed, "We are very disappointed and very upset by this verdict. Sentences for this article of the criminal court, they usually not so severe. Usually, it's like five and a half or six years. So nine years, it's pretty unusual, and it contradicts the existing court practice in Russia." Blagovolina adds, "That's why we are really disappointed and very much surprised by this decision by the court." If Griner's legal team has to appeal the sentence, they must do so within 10 days. Talking about whether it would make a difference for Griner's prison term, she said, "We need to use every legal opportunity that we have, and appeal is one of these opportunities."
BREAKING NEWS:(EXCLUSIVE)ALLEGEDLY A RUSSIAN COURT HAS FOUND US BASKETBALL STAR "BRITTNEY GRINER" "GUILTY" ON "DRUG" SMUGGLING AND POSSESSION! pic.twitter.com/9iZdR0ukU9— @BREAKING NEWS (@DknMohammed) August 4, 2022
What other legal options does Griner have?
Blagovolina and Boykov explained that they need to review the full verdict before even making a move. Boykov explained that the process itself could take several months and that "It's not very fast." The appeal, however, would be in a different judge and a different court. The next legal option that could work out well for Griner is the potential prisoner exchange the US government recently offered to Russia. Griner's legal team claimed that if the transfer is agreed upon and is successful, they will immediately drop their motion to appeal.
The Biden administration previously explained that they were willing to swap Viktor Bout in exchange for WNBA star Brittney Griner and retired US Marine Paul Whelan. However, CNN reported that the Russian officials also requested that the US include convicted murderer and former Russian spy Vadim Krasikov in the package. When Griner heard the news that her homeland still remembers her, she was "quite happy to know that she's not been forgotten and that there are some possible developments," Blagovolina says. She continued, "But she's quite realistic about what's going on." For now, the WNBA star will have to stay in Russia.