Russian judge rules ‘criminal intent’ and throws the book at Brittney Griner; WH responds

A Moscow-area judge has rendered a decision in the case pending against pro basketball star Brittney Griner.

Upon arriving at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February, Griner — who, as a player for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, was not a fan in the past of the pre-game U.S. national anthem — was detained for allegedly having vape cartridges containing hash oil in her luggage.

Biden-voter Griner, 31, had traveled to Russia to play in that country’s Premier League during the WNBA off-season.

“The judge found that Griner had criminal intent and said she is guilty of smuggling and storing illegal drugs,” ABC News reported. Griner received a sentence of nine years behind bars.

“The two-time Olympic gold medalist, who appeared in court Thursday for the final hearing in her trial, was facing up to 10 years in prison although 9 1/2 years is the maximum sentence with time served. Griner has a right to appeal,” the news outlet added.

In court, an apologetic Griner, who had already entered a guilty plea, told the judge that she had made an honest mistake when she packed her bags for Russia in haste and sought leniency. She also said that “I know everybody keeps talking about political pawn and politics, but I hope that is far from this courtroom. I want to say again that I had no intent of breaking Russian laws. I had no intent. I did not conspire or plan to commit this crime.”

Unfortunately for Griner, given the disproportionate sentence for reportedly possessing 0.7 grams of cannabis oil in the cartridges, it does appear that she is a pawn in the geopolitical tensions between America and Russia attendant to the Putin regime’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine, and America’s extensive backing of the Zelenskyy government.

In a statement that reads like it was prepared in advance by White House staff, President Biden said that “Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney. It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates. My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”

The Biden administration reportedly had proposed swapping the so-called Merchant of Death, a notorious arms dealer serving a 25-year sentence in a U.S. prison, in exchange for Griner and Whelan, the latter who has been held in a Russian labor camp for about three years for alleged espionage. That deal may or may be still under negotiations.

“Defense attorney Maria Blagovolina claimed that Griner brought the cartridges with her to Russia inadvertently and only used cannabis as medicine and only while in Arizona, where medical marijuana is legal. A prosecutor, Nikolai Vlasenko, argued that Griner packed the cannabis oil deliberately,” the New York Post explained.

Griner was also hit with a monetary fine equivalent to about $17,000 in U.S. dollars.

“Griner’s legal team said they were ‘very disappointed’ by the verdict. ‘The court completely ignored all the evidence of the defense, and most importantly, the guilty plea,’ her lawyers said in a statement sent on the Telegram messaging app, adding that they will file an appeal,” NBC News reported.

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