A Russian court has sentenced Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner to nine years in prison for drug smuggling and possession charges, according to a report from ESPN investigative reporter T.J. Quinn.

In addition to the nine-year prison sentence, Griner has been fined 1 million rubbles, the equivalent of roughly $16,500.

As noted by Quinn, Griner’s sentencing ends the first chapter of her detainment in Russia, which began when customs service officials said they found vape cartridges containing hashish oil in Griner’s luggage at the Sheremetyevo airport.

MORE: Brittney Griner detainment timeline | Latest updates on Brittney Griner detainment in Russia

Since February, Griner has been detained in Russia, causing multitudes of figures in the sports world to call for her safe return home to the United States.

Griner, 31, was selected first overall in the 2013 WNBA Draft by the Mercury. Since 2014, she has spent WNBA offseasons playing for the Russian club UMMC Ekaterinburg, located in Yekaterinburg, Russia.

She is charged with attempting to smuggle illegal narcotics into Russia upon her return into the country.

While Griner now faces a nine-year sentence in prison, some legal experts view the verdict as a formality. The length of her detainment will presumably be determined by diplomatic negotiations of a prisoner exchange between the United States and Russia.

White House statement on Brittney Griner sentencing

United States President Joe Biden released the following statement in response to Thursday’s sentencing.

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.

WNBA and NBA joint statement

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Englebert and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver released a statement in response to Griner’s sentencing.

Today’s verdict and sentencing is unjustified and unfortunate, but not unexpected and Brittney Griner remains wrongly detained. The WNBA and NBA’s commitment to her safe return has not wavered and it is our hope that we are near the end of this process of finally bringing BG home to the United States.

Phoenix Mercury and Suns issue statement

The Phoenix Mercury and Suns released the following joint statement in response to the verdict and sentencing.

While we knew it was never the legal process that was going to bring our friend home, today’s verdict is a sobering milestone in the 168-day nightmare being endured by our sister, BG.

We remain heartbroken for. her, as we have every day for nearly six months.

We remain grateful to and confident in the public servants working every day to return her to her family and us.

We remain faithful the Administration willl do what it takes to end her wrongful detention.

We are inspired every day by BG’s strength and we are steadfastly committed to keeping her top-of-mind publicly until she is safely back on American soil.

We will not allow her to be forgotten. We are BG.

Brittney Griner apology

As Griner awaited sentencing, she offered an apology to the court. Below are excerpts from her statement.

I want to apologize to my teammates, my club, the fans and the city of (Yekaterinburg) for my mistake that I made and the embarrassment that I brought on to them…

I want to also apologize to my parents, my siblings, the Phoenix Mercury organization back at home, the amazing women of the WNBA and my amazing spouse back at home…

I never meant to hurt anybody, I never meant to put in jeopardy the Russian population, I never meant to break any laws here…

I made an honest mistake, and I hope that in your ruling, that it doesn’t end my life here…

I know that everybody keeps talking about political pawn and politics, but I hope that that is far from this court room…

I want to say again that I had no intent on breaking any Russian laws. I had no intent, I did not conspire or plan to commit this crime…

This is my second home, and all I wanted to do was just win championships and make them proud.


* This story is updating

Source: https://www.sportingnews.com/us/nba/news/brittney-griner-sentenced-russian-prison-charges-guilty-verdict/phddepuiy0itityjrzk96vb5