Griner sentenced to nine years, agent calls her a “political pawn”

Griner sentenced to nine years, agent calls her a “political pawn”

American basketball star Brittney Griner was sentenced in Russia today to nine years in prison for possession of cannabis oil, which her agent said confirms that she is a political pawn, according to a statement from her public relations team.  

Griner, whose wife Cherelle is from Little Rock according to multiple online reports, was arrested in February for possession of a vape pen with cannabis oil. Griner, who pleaded guilty, has said that she was carrying the vape pen inadvertently after packing her bags hastily and that she was prescribed cannabis legally by a doctor in the United States. Griner was carrying less than one gram of cannabis oil when she was arrested. 

Griner said in court today that she had no intention to break the law, according to CNN. 

“I never meant to hurt anybody, I never meant to put in jeopardy the Russian population, I never meant to break any laws here,” Griner said. “I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling that it doesn’t end my life here. I know everybody keeps talking about political pawn and politics, but I hope that, that is far from this courtroom.

“I want to say again that I had no intent on breaking any Russian laws. I had no intent. I did not conspire or plan to commit this crime,” she added.

Since Griner’s arrest, the Biden administration has been criticized for its handling of the case. 

In June, Cherelle Griner expressed frustration with the Biden administration when she was unable to reach Brittney Griner for a scheduled phone call because of a logistical problem at the U.S. Embassy in Russia. Cherelle Griner told the Associated Press afterward that she had “zero trust in our government right now.”

Last week, the United States offered to trade Griner and American Paul Whelan for Russian Viktor Bout in a prisoner exchange. Whelan was sentenced in 2018 to 16 years for espionage but maintains his innocence. Bout, nicknamed the “Merchant of Death,” is a former Soviet military officer who was sentenced in 2012 to 25 years for conspiracy to kill Americans, acquire and export antiaircraft missiles and provide support for a terrorist organization.  

Earlier this week, Russia requested to add Vadim Krasikov to the prisoner exchange. Last year, Krasikov was sentenced to life in prison for murder in Germany. 

Griner’s agent, Lindsay Colas, said in a statement today that she supports the efforts of President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to bring Griner and Whelan back to the U.S. 

Here is Colas’ statement released on her Twitter account:

“Today’s sentencing of Brittney Griner was severe by Russian legal standards and goes to prove what we have known all along, that Brittney is being used as a political pawn.

We appreciate and continue to support the efforts of @POTUS and @SecBlinken to get a deal done swiftly to bring Brittney, Paul and all Americans home.

Bringing Brittney and Paul home is the sole objective, and as such, we should use all available tools. We must remain focused and unified. This is a time for compassion and a shared understanding that getting a deal done to bring Americans home will be hard, but it is urgent and it is the right thing to do.”

A statement from Griner’s public relations firm said Brittney Griner, Cherelle Griner and Brittney Griner’s family are unavailable for interviews.