Brittney Griner, a WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist, has been detained in Russia since February under accusations of drug smuggling. Griner has stated she had no intention of breaking Russian laws when she brought vape cartridges and cannabis oil into the country, per the Deseret News.
On Tuesday, Griner attempted to appeal her nine-year prison sentence, but was ultimately turned down when a judge ruled to keep her verdict in place. Her sentence will be changed to include the time she spent in detention before her trial, according to CNN.
Griner’s lawyers have said that the cannabis she brought into the country was for medical purposes and she unintentionally brought the cartridges while packing in a hurry.
It is not yet clear if Griner’s lawyers will try to pursue an additional appeal. According to CNBC, Griner was incredibly disappointed by the verdict and it’s up to her if another appeal will be pursued.
The New York Times reports that Griner doesn’t have a much better chance if she appeals her verdict in higher Russian courts, since they are known to not overturn verdicts involving foreign policy and the Kremlin’s interests.
The United States is continuing to communicate with Moscow about a possible prisoner swap to get Griner released sooner. NPR reports the White House’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said in a statement that the U.S. is continuing to “engage with Russia through every available channel and make every effort to bring home Brittney.”
Griner’s arrest has become unfortunately entangled with relations with Russia and the U.S. as President Joe Biden continues to impose sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin for the Ukraine war.
This case has been referred to the State Department by the U.S. government for hostage affairs due to suspicion of the case being politically motivated, according to NPR. The nine-year charge has been thought to be unusually harsh even by Russia’s legal standards.