Now, Greener has returned to the detention center where she was held during a weeks-long trial as her lawyers vow to appeal the conviction and the Biden administration tries to negotiate her release.
Her lawyers hoped that a guilty plea and Griner’s statements of remorse would lead to a lighter sentence. She faced 10 years on the charges and prosecutors demanded that she be sentenced to 9.5 years in prison. In addition to her nine-year sentence, Griner must pay a fine of 1 million rubles, which is approximately $16,400.
“I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your decision my life does not end here,” Griner said in court before sentencing. “I know everyone keeps talking about political pawn and politics, but I hope it’s far from this courtroom.”
Here’s what’s next for Griner as she awaits her lawyers’ appeal and the US continues to negotiate for her release.
Lawyers appeal unfounded verdict
Griner’s lawyers will appeal the court’s decision, which they must do within 10 days of the verdict, said her lawyers Alexander Boikov and Maria Blagovolina, a partner at Rybalkin, Gortsunyan, Dyakin & Partners.
“We are very disappointed with the verdict. As legal professionals, we believe that the court should be fair to everyone, regardless of nationality. The court completely ignored all the evidence of the defense, and most importantly, the admission of guilt, ”the statement said.
They called the verdict “completely unfounded” and insisted in their statement that the decision “contradicts existing judicial practice” in Russia.
Blagovolina told reporters that the average sentence for this type of crime is five years, adding that nearly a third of those convicted receive parole.
During the trial, lawyers argued that Griner’s detention was improperly conducted. Griner testified that she was forced to sign documents that she did not fully understand and were not given proper Russian translations of the documents.
The defense expert also testified that the examination of vape cartridges containing cannabis oil did not comply with Russian law.
US proposes prisoner exchange for Griner’s return
After Griner’s sentencing, National Security Council coordinator John Kirby said that “it depends on the Russian side whether the verdict opens the door to prisoner exchange negotiations.”
Kirby reiterated on Thursday that the U.S. position remains that they want Russia to “bring the deal up because it’s good, it’s fair, and it gets Paul (Whelan) and Britney home.”
Family and supporters continue to fight for her return
The trade offer followed months of pressure from the Griner family and members of the basketball community.
Griner also had the continued support of her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury, as well as other members of the basketball community.
Before the start of Thursday night’s game between the Mercury and the Connecticut Sun, members of both teams joined hands in center court and honored Griner with a minute of silence for 42 seconds, wearing jersey number 42. After it ended, people in the crowd began to chant: “Bring her home! Bring her home!”
CNN’s Ellie Malloy, Chris Liacos, Natasha Bertrand, Frederic Pleitgen, Eric Levenson, Dakin Andone, Travis Caldwell, Jill Martin, Betsy Klein, Kate Sullivan and M.J. Lee contributed to this report.