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Brittney Griner

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UPDATED- Oct. 25, 2022 at 1:23 PM EST

Russian court officials have rejected Brittney Griner’s appeal. On Tuesday, the three judges presiding over the detained basketball star’s case ruled that she must serve her lengthy prison sentence for drug smuggling and possession. However, officials recalculated the time she must spend behind bars. Instead of nine years, Griner will now serve around eight years in prison.

In a statement, the athlete’s attorneys, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov said that the decision was not what they had “expected,” according to ESPN.

“The verdict contains numerous defects and we hoped that the court of appeal would take them into consideration,” the legal duo said after the verdict. “We still think the punishment is excessive and contradicts to the existing court practice.”

The WNBA Players Association also released a statement about the appeal, noting how the decision was “further verification that BG is not just wrongfully detained. She is very clearly a hostage.”

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan will be working closely with officials stateside to help expedite Griner’s return to U.S. soil.

“We are aware of the news out of Russia that Brittney Griner will continue to be wrongfully detained under intolerable circumstances after having to undergo another sham judicial proceeding today,” he shared in a statement. Some officials believe that Russia will not seriously engage in negotiations until after the midterm elections on Nov. 8 in an effort to maintain political power over the Biden Administration.

Griner is expected to serve the rest of her prison sentence at one of Russia’s notorious penal colonies. As of now, the Houston native remains behind bars at a “relatively safe” jail in Moscow as she waits to be transferred.

 

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Brittney Griner appeared in court for her long-awaited appeal hearing on Oct. 25. Lawyers for the 32-year-old basketball star said she was “prepared” but “very nervous” before stepping into the courtroom, USA TODAY noted. The feeling is understandable as this may be her last and only chance at reducing her nine-year jail sentence for drug smuggling and possession.

On Tuesday, Griner appeared in court via video from her detention center as three judges listened to her desperate appeal for freedom. Before the trial began, the two-time Olympian’s lawyers, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, requested for judges to briefly delay the appearance because they were running behind schedule, Reuters reported. Russian court officials are expected to make a decision on Griner’s appeal directly after the hearing, her legal team said.

 

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Prosecutors say Griner’s prison sentence was “fair”

One of the prosecutors at her appeal hearing told the judges that her hefty nine-year prison sentence was “fair” for the charges she was slammed with in August, Reuters noted in a separate report. While concerning, Russian court officials have yet to make a decision on the Texas native’s fate.

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medallist, was arrested on Feb. 17 at a Moscow airport after Russian customs officials discovered vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage.  She was sentenced on Aug. 4 to nine years. Attorneys for the former Phoenix Mercury star filed an appeal on Aug. 15.

Earlier this month, Boykov told ABC News that Griner was having doubts about the appeal decision.

“She is not very much hopeful for the appeal because the first court decision — the verdict showed that the case is totally unjust even by present Russian standards, and we are not hoping for a big release, but of course, we hope for the best,” he said.

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