Dan Abrams Speaks Out About Brittney Griner Sentencing in Russian Drug Charges Case

by Caitlin Berard

Earlier today (August 4), news broke that American professional basketball player Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in a Russian prison after being convicted of deliberately smuggling drugs into the country. The sentence was handed down by Judge Anna Sotnikova of the Khimki city court, who fined Griner one million rubles, or around $16,400 American.

Following the verdict, many called the court’s motivations into question, accusing the Russian government of wrongfully detaining Brittney Griner in an effort to use her as a political pawn in the war against Ukraine. One such skeptic was television host Dan Abrams, who demanded “more context” about the case.

“As various cable stations cover the 9 year sentence for WNBA star Brittney Griner in Russia, I cant help think more context is necessary,” Abrams wrote on Twitter. “This isnt a real court with a real sentence, this is just the Russian government deciding what provides them with the most leverage.”

WNBA Star Brittney Griner’s Lawyers Express Disappointment in Harsh Verdict

During the proceedings, Brittney Griner admitted partial guilt for the crime. Griner claimed it was an accident. However, she did attempt to smuggle less than 1 gram of cannabis oil in her luggage back in February. According to Griner, she was rushed while packing and accidentally put the drugs in her bag.

That said, she also apologized profusely for the mistake and pleaded for the court to show leniency. “I never meant to hurt anybody,” she said in her emotional speech before the court. “I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling that it doesn’t end my life here.”

As such, Brittney Griner’s lawyers, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, were appalled by the harsh verdict. Following the court’s decision, they gave a written statement expressing their frustration.

“We are very disappointed by the verdict,” wrote Blagovolina and Boykov. “As legal professionals, we believe that the court should be fair to everyone regardless of nationality. The court completely ignored all the evidence of the defense, and most importantly, the guilty plea.”

“This contradicts the existing legal practice,” they continued. “Taking into account the amount of the substance (not to mention the defects of the expertise) and the plea, the verdict is absolutely unreasonable. We will certainly file an appeal.”

Brittney Griner’s lawyers have 10 days to appeal the verdict. With the appeal, they hope for a charge more consistent with one more typical of such a case. Following the statement, Boykov explained that the average jail time for minor drug possession is five years. And almost a third of those convicted get parole.