An appeal hearing for Brittney Griner has been set for October 25, according to the Associated Press. The detained WNBA star is set to fight her 9-year prison sentence after being convicted of smuggling drugs into the country.
Griner was convicted in August after Russian authorities found vape pens with cannabis oil in her luggage when she traveled into the country to join a Russian sports team in the WNBA off-season back in February.
Following her early August conviction, her lawyer Maria Blagovolina told People that the WNBA star is “stressed and very much concerned with her future” and described her sentencing as “absolutely unreasonable.”
At the time, President Joe Biden issued a statement saying that Russia had “wrongfully detained” the basketball player.
“It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates,” Biden wrote at the time. “My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”
During the final stage of Griner’s trial, the Russian prosecutor argued that Griner knowingly put the vape cartridges with cannabis oil in her luggage before flying to Russia in February. Because the act was deliberate, the prosecutor asked the judge to hand down a sentence of 9.5 years in prison on the drug possession charges; the charges usually carry a 10-year sentence, but Griner has already spent nearly six months behind bars since her Feb. 17 arrest.
Before the verdict, Griner addressed the judge, saying she “never meant to break any law,” and apologized for her actions; she previously pleaded guilty to the drug possession charges, with the subsequent trial to determine the penalty against her.
“I want to apologize to my teammates, my club, my fans, and the city of (Yekaterinburg) for my mistake that I made and the embarrassment that I brought on them,” Griner said (via the Associated Press). “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.”
The State Department offered to exchange convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, currently imprisoned in America, for Griner and another imprisoned American, U.S. Marine Corps veteran and former security executive Paul Whelan, both of whom the U.S. government claims are “wrongly detained” in the country. However, according to the AP, Russia countered that offer with a “bad faith” response.