Griner, now 32, was convicted of drug smuggling Aug. 4 after police said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. She has been in Russian custody since February, just shortly before the invasion of Ukraine.
The eight-time All-Star center with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, did not appear in court and participated in the proceedings via a video link from the detention center.
Griner’s lawyers said it could be a few months before she is moved to a penal colony outside of Moscow, the New York Times reported.
She apologized for her “honest mistake” in her appeal, saying it had been “very, very stressful.”
“I’ve been here almost eight months and people with more severe crimes have been given less than what I was given,” Griner told the court via video.
According to CNN, Griner’s lawyers argued to the Moscow Regional Court that her sentence of nine years in prison was disproportionate and said that the previous court ruling was wrong to say Griner had criminal intent.
One of her lawyers, Maria Blagovolina, told the court that the results of the examination into her drug use are “doubtful and unconfirmed” and that “continuous narcotic substance use is incompatible with a career as a professional athlete.”
Though the court upheld the ruling, calling it “fair,” the time Griner will have to serve in prison will be recalculated with her time in pre-trial detention taken into account. One day in pre-trial detention will be counted as 1.5 days in prison, so the basketball star will have to serve around eight years in prison, according to the Associated Press.
On August 4, President Biden called on Russia for Griner’s immediate release. Before her court date, Biden signed off on the offering of Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer, in exchange for Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine arrested on espionage charges. Russia wants to gauge their power, so the deal will likely be prolonged.
In an interview with “CBS Mornings” earlier this month, Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, said that she had been able to speak to her only twice since she was detained and was increasingly worried about her. The most recent conversation, she said, was so troubling that she cried for two or three days afterward.
“It was the most disturbing phone call I’d ever experienced,” Cherelle Griner said.
US national security adviser Jake Sullivan weighed in on the decision, saying President Joe Biden has a clear stance on Griner’s release.
“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,” Sullivan said. “President Biden has been very clear that Brittney should be released immediately.”