Now Griner has returned to the detention center where she was held during her week-long trial as her lawyers promise to appeal the sentence and the Biden administration attempts to negotiate her release.
His attorneys had hoped that Griner’s guilty plea and statements of remorse would result in a more lenient sentence. She faces 10 years on the charges and prosecutors have asked that she be sentenced to 9.5 years in prison. In addition to his nine-year sentence, Griner must pay a fine of 1 million rubles, or about $16,400.
“I made an honest mistake and I hope your decision doesn’t end my life here,” Griner said in court ahead of the verdict. “I know everyone talks about political pawn and politics, but I hope it’s away from this courtroom.”
Here’s what’s next for Griner as she awaits a call from her lawyers and the United States continues to negotiate her release.
Lawyers to appeal ‘unreasonable’ verdict
Griner’s legal team will file an appeal against the court’s decision, which it must do within 10 days of the verdict, according to its attorneys, Alexander Boykov and Maria Blagovolina, who is a partner at law firm Rybalkin, Gortsunyan , Dyakin and Partners.
“We are very disappointed with the verdict. As legal professionals, we believe that the court should be fair to everyone, regardless of their nationality. The court completely ignored all the defense evidence, and most importantly, the plea of guilt,” they said in a statement.
They called the verdict “absolutely unreasonable” and insisted in the statement that the ruling “contradicts existing legal practice” in Russia.
Blagovolina told reporters that the average prison term for this type of crime is five years, adding that nearly a third of those convicted are granted parole.
During the trial, attorneys argued that Griner’s detention was mishandled. Griner said she was made to sign documents she did not fully understand and was not given adequate translations of the documents into Russian.
A defense expert also testified that the examination of vape cartridges containing cannabis oil did not comply with Russian law.
The United States offered a prisoner exchange for Griner’s return
After Griner’s sentencing, National Security Council coordinator John Kirby said it was “up to the Russian side” whether sentencing would open the door to prisoner exchange negotiations.
Kirby reiterated on Thursday that the United States’ position remains that it wants Russia “to take the deal on the table because it’s a good deal, it’s fair, and it will help bring Paul (Whelan) back. and Brittney at home”.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters at a press conference on Friday that officials “are ready to discuss” prisoners held by the two countries, according to Russian news agency RIA Novosti.
“There is a specific string that has been agreed upon by the presidents, and no matter what anyone says publicly, that string will remain in effect,” Lavrov said, according to RIA Novosti.
Family and supporters continue to fight for his return
The trade proposal follows months of pressure from Griner’s family and members of the basketball community.
Griner also enjoyed the constant support of his WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury, as well as other members of the basketball community.
Before the start of a Thursday night game between the Mercury and the Connecticut Sun, members of both teams linked arms in the center of the field and held a 42-second minute of silence for Griner, who wears 42 on his jersey . After the end, people in the crowd started chanting, “Take her home!” Bring her home!
CNN’s Allie Malloy, Chris Liakos, Natasha Bertrand, Frederik Pleitgen, Eric Levenson, Dakin Andone, Travis Caldwell, Jill Martin, Betsy Klein, Kate Sullivan and MJ Lee contributed to this report.