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WNBA's Griner sentenced to 9 years in Russia

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U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner was convicted Thursday in Russia of drug possession and smuggling, and was sentenced to nine years in prison in a politically charged case that ultimately could lead to a high-stakes prisoner exchange between Washington and Moscow. The 31-year-old Griner, a two-time U.S. Olympic champion and a eight-time all-star with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, listened with a blank expression as an interpreter translated the verdict by Judge Anna Sotnikova. Griner also was fined 1 million rubles (about $16,700). U.S. President Joe Biden denounced as “unacceptable” the verdict and sentence, which came amid soaring tensions between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine. Outside court, the U.S. Embassy's charge d’affaires Elizabeth Rood called the outcome “a miscarriage of justice.” Griner, recognized as one of the greatest players in WNBA history, has been detained since Feb. 17 after police said they found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage upon landing at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. She was returning to Russia, where she has competed since 2014. The nine-year sentence was close to the maximum of 10 years that Griner had faced under the charges. Most Russians possessing small quantities of drugs get at most five years in prison, lawyers said. Before the unusually swift verdict was reached, an emotional Griner apologized to her family, teammates and the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, where she plays in the WNBA offseason, “for my mistake that I made and the embarrassment that I brought on them.” With her voice cracking, she added: “I hope in your ruling it does not end my life.”

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