WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison by a Russian court on Thursday.
Griner was detained by Russian officials in February, who accused her of trying to smuggle less than a gram of hashish oil into the country, where she plays for a Russian professional basketball team during the WNBA offseason.
The U.S. State Department considers Griner as “wrongfully detained,” and Russian authorities are suspected of using her as a political pawn to negotiate with the U.S.
Here’s a timeline of everything leading up to Griner’s conviction:
- Feb. 17: Griner is stopped by Russian authorities at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport. She was on her way to join her Russian professional basketball team, UMMC Ekaterinburg.
- Feb. 24: Russia invades Ukraine, beginning a brutal conflict and ramping up tensions between Russia and the West.
- March 5: Russia’s Federal Customs Service announces the arrest of an American professional basketball player, who is later identified as Griner by TASS, a Russian state news agency.
- March 6: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is asked about Griner’s arrest. “We have an embassy team that’s working on the cases of other Americans who are detained in Russia,” Blinken said.
- March 7: Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, speaks about her arrest. “There are no words to express this pain,” she said in an Instagram photo caption. “I’m hurting, we’re hurting. We await the day to love on you as a family.”
- March 8: Russian state television releases the first photo of Griner since her arrest.
- March 17: Griner’s pretrial detention extended until May 19.
- March 23: Griner is allowed to meet with U.S. officials for the first time. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said a consular official verified “she is doing as well as can be expected.”
- April 27: Former Marine Trevor Reed is freed from Russian detention in a prisoner swap. “We won’t stop until Paul Whelan and others join Trevor in the loving arms of family and friends,” President Joe Biden said in a statement.
- May 3: The State Department reclassified Griner as “wrongfully detained” by Russia.
- May 6: WNBA season begins. The league announced it would honor Griner by featuring her initials and jersey number (42) on the sideline of each team’s court all season.
- May 25: In an appearance on “Good Morning America”, Cherelle Griner appeals to Biden, saying: “If they’re holding her because they want you to do something then I want you to do it.”
- June 13: Griner’s WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury, meets with State Department officials about efforts to bring her home. “We’re here to do whatever we can to amplify and keep BG at the forefront, which is more important than any basketball game and anything else that’s going on in our lives,” Mercury star Diana Taurasi said in a statement.
- June 27: Griner’s pretrial detention is extended another six months.
- July 1: Trial begins amid concerns about the fairness of the process. Some officials believe Griner is being held as a bargaining chip.
- July 4: Griner writes a letter to Biden, a few lines of which were shared with the public by her camp. “(As) I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever,” Griner wrote.
- July 6: Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris speak with Cherelle Griner by phone. “The President offered his support to Cherelle and Brittney’s family, and he committed to ensuring they are provided with all possible assistance while his administration pursues every avenue to bring Brittney home,” the White House said in a statement.
- July 7: Griner pleads guilty to bringing hashish oil into Russia, saying she did so “inadvertently,” and asked the court for leniency in sentencing.
- July 15: Griner’s defense claims the WNBA star had been prescribed medical cannabis by doctors in the U.S. to treat chronic pain.
- July 27: The Biden administration offers to trade convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout — nicknamed “The Merchant of Death” — for Griner and Whelan.
- July 29: Blinken meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Blinken described having a “frank and direct conversation” with the Russian leader and said he “pressed the Kremlin to accept the substantial proposal that we put forth on the release of Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner.”
- Aug. 4: Griner is convicted of attempted drug smuggling and sentenced to nine years in prison and a fine equivalent to around $16,300. Defense attorneys called the verdict “absolutely unreasonable” and say they plan to file an appeal.