• Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Brittney Griner 'won over' Russian prison guards and inmates, and they reassured the WNBA star as she finished her trial

·3 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Brittney Griner.
Brittney Griner stands in the defendant's cage during her Russian trial.Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool/Reuters
  • Prison guards and inmates told Brittney Griner "everything will be OK!" before her sentencing.

  • Griner's lawyer said the Russians were "won over" by the American WNBA superstar.

  • Griner was sentenced to nine years in Russian prison after hashish oil was found in her bags at a Moscow airport.

Prison guards and fellow Russian inmates offered Brittney Griner support and encouragement ahead of her final Russian court appearance, her lawyer said.

As the American WNBA superstar walked, handcuffed, to her sentencing hearing on Thursday, those closest to her at the facility where she's been detained reassured her: "Everything will be OK!"

Griner's attorney in Russia, Alexander Boykov, told the court that the WNBA star had "won over" a number of guards and inmates in the Russian prison where she is being held, Jezebel's Emily Liebert reported.

Brittney Griner.
Griner is escorted to a court appearance.AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

The two-time Olympic gold medalist was ultimately sentenced on Thursday to nine years in Russian prison after being found guilty of large-scale transportation of drugs with criminal intent. She has been held in custody near Moscow since her February arrest, when officials at a Moscow airport found vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage.

She pleaded guilty to the charges early on in her trial — which began four months after she was arrested — with hopes that the move would help reduce her sentence. Instead, Griner received a sentence that was just six months less than prosecutor's requested and one year below the maximum sentence for her charge.

President Joe Biden announced in May that the US government was classifying Griner as "wrongfully detained" and later declared a national emergency to help free wrongful detainees. Just last week, the Biden administration announced that it had offered to swap a convicted Russian arms dealer, Viktor Bout, in exchange for the early release of both Griner and Paul Whelan — a former US Marine also detained in Russia.

American detainee Paul Whelan holds a sign ahead of a hearing in Moscow.
American detainee Paul Whelan holds a sign ahead of a hearing in Moscow.REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

But some sources suggested that the eight-time WNBA All-Star would need to be sentenced before a swap could come to fruition.

Russia has yet to formally respond to the administration's offer, but suggested that they would be interested in the swap if the US helps to free an additional convict — a Russian national who was tried, sentenced, and imprisoned for murder in Germany.

John Kirby, the Biden administration's National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications, slammed Russia's counter as "a bad faith attempt to avoid a very serious offer and proposal that the United States has put forward."

Brittney Griner.
Griner.AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool

Moscow officials fired back that "loudspeaker diplomacy" wouldn't succeed in bringing the detained Americans home, signaling that the US and Russia were still quite far from agreeing to a deal.

Still, there has been mounting public pressure on the Biden administration to get her home, and the prospect of Griner heading to a penal colony only increases the urgency of the situation. Biden, for his part, called on Russia to release Griner immediately after she was sentenced.

Read the original article on Insider