There was more bad news for WNBA star Brittney Griner on Tuesday when a Russian court rejected her appeal to shorten her nine-year sentence for drug possession. Griner, an eight-time WNBA All-Star and twice the league’s Defensive Player of the Year, who pleaded guilty to the charge, was sentenced on Aug. 4, an outcome her legal team considered a certainty.
Griner was arrested when she returned to Russia after a brief break in the Russian league back in March. The Russian Federal Customs Service found vape cartridges containing marijuana concentrate hashish oil in her luggage at Sheremetyevo International Airport. Since being placed in custody she has complained of not receiving adequate treatment, particularly exercise time outside her cell.
In denying her appeal, the court said the time she will have to spend behind bars will be “recalculated with her time in pre-trial detention taken into account,” according to the AP.
One day in pre-trial detention will be equated to 1.5 days in prison towards her sentence, which equates to her having to serve closer to eight years in prison and not the nine years. This does little to reduce the maximum sentence for such a crime of 10 years. Griner’s case, her lawyers argued at the beginning of trial, was not unique from other such offenses in which the average sentence was about five years, and even with some defendants granted parole with no prison sentence.
But Griner’s case, given the political turmoil, especially the war with Ukraine, makes her a sort of international pawn, and even at times deemed usage in a prisoner exchange.
After she was sentenced in August, U.S. National Security Advisor Jack Sullivan released a statement, declaring she was being “wrongfully detained under intolerable circumstances after having to undergo another sham judicial proceeding.”
She is permitted only one hour a day outside her cell and according to recent reports has refused to accept a basketball during her recreational period.