Brittney Griner’s Lawyers Speak Out on Russian Court Upholding Her 9-Year Prison Sentence

by Nick Geddes
(Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP) (Photo by KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

The lawyers of WNBA star Brittney Griner are “disappointed” in a Russian court’s decision to uphold her nine-year prison sentence on drug smuggling charges.

Griner’s attorneys, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, issued a statement Tuesday to

“It is not what we expected,” the statement reads. “We are very disappointed. The verdict contains numerous defects and we hoped that the court of appeal would take them into consideration. We still think the punishment is excessive and contradicts to the existing court practice.”

Blagovolina and Boykov fear that Griner will have to serve the entirety of her sentence. The U.S. classifies Griner as wrongfully detained, though attempts to facilitate her return have been unsuccessful.

“She had hopes for today as each month, each day away from her family and friends matters to her,” they said.

Russia detained Griner, 32, on Feb. 17 for being in possession of vape cartridges containing hashish oil at a Russian airport. The U.S. had been looking to organize a prisoner swap to bring Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan back into the states. Russia, in return, would receive Viktor Bout — also known as the “Merchant of Death.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Explains Steps League’s Taking to Help Brittney Griner

NBA commissioner Adam Silver made an appearance Tuesday on ESPN‘s “NBA Today” to discuss the steps the league is taking to help Griner.

“Back in May, and even earlier when she was first imprisoned, we were told by experts in the U.S. government, it was not in her interest to raise the profile of her incarceration beyond where it was,” Silver said. “They thought it would reduce the chances of her getting out.

“Beyond that, clearly, we shifted gears. … Any punishment at this point is dramatically disproportionate. There should be mercy to anyone in her position. We’ve had direct conversations with the White House, the State Department … we’re doing everything we know available to us at this point.”

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert, meanwhile, told that it is time to bring Griner home.

“Today’s decision while unfortunate, was not unexpected and Brittney Griner remains wrongly detained,” she said. “We greatly appreciate the ongoing efforts of the Administration and U.S. Department of State in leading the negotiations. It is time to bring this case to an end and bring BG home.”