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Basketball star Brittney Griner sentenced to 9 years in Russian prison on drug charges

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American basketball star Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison after being found guilty of drug possession and smuggling in Russian court on Thursday.

Griner made her final appeal to the court earlier in the day and said she had no intention to break the law by bringing vape cartridges with cannabis oil when she flew to Moscow in February to play basketball in the city of Yekaterinburg.

“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, her voice cracking. “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.”

She called it “an honest mistake,” adding: “[I] hope in your ruling it does not end my life.”

While recapping the evidence and giving her findings, Judge Anna Sotnikova said the 31-year-old Griner illegally brought drugs into Russia.

Griner’s translator whispered to her through the bar’s of the defendant’s cage what was rapidly read out by the judge.

Prosecutors were asking for a sentence of 9-½ years in prison in a case that reached the highest levels of U.S.-Russia diplomacy.

Attention will now turn to the high-stakes possibility of a prisoner swap.

Before her trial began in July, the U.S. State Department designated Griner as “wrongfully detained,” moving her case under the supervision of its special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, effectively the government’s chief hostage negotiator.

Then last week, in an extraordinary move, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, urging him to accept a deal under which Griner and Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned in Russia on an espionage conviction, would go free.

WATCH | U.S. reveals moves to bring home jailed basketball player:

White House offers Russia a deal to release basketball star Brittney Griner

The Biden administration says it has made a ‘substantial offer’ to bring two American detainees home from Russia, including basketball star Brittney Griner.

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