WNBA star Brittney Griner had her appeal to shorten her nine-year prison sentence for drug possession denied by a Russian court on Tuesday. The eight-time WNBA All-Star and two-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year was originally found guilty of drug charges in Russia and sentenced on Aug. 4.
While she was sentenced back in August, Griner, who pled guilty to the charges, has actually been in Russian custody since March, when the Russian Federal Customs Service found vape cartridges containing the marijuana concentrate hashish oil in her luggage at Sheremetyevo International Airport.
Griner appeared at the court hearing on Tuesday through a video call from her cell where she is being held, near Moscow. In the ruling denying her appeal, the court noted that the time Griner will have to spend behind bars will be "recalculated with her time in pre-trial detention taken into account," according to the Associated Press.
That means that every day Griner spent in pre-trial detention will be counted as 1.5 days in prison towards her sentence, which equates to her having to serve closer to eight years in prison and not the nine years she was sentenced. The sentence is still nearly the maximum penalty of 10 years that Russian courts are allowed to hand down for this type of crime. At the original trial, Griner's lawyers argued that in similar cases, defendants have received an average sentence of about five years -- with some people even granted parole with no prison sentence.
That's not the case for Griner, though. The U.S. State Department said that Griner had been "wrongfully detained" before the trial even began in August and United States National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan doubled down on that claim on Tuesday. He released a statement, saying that the American WNBA star is being "wrongfully detained under intolerable circumstances after having to undergo another sham judicial proceeding."
In statement, @JakeSullivan46 calls Brittney Griner’s lost court appeal in Russia “another sham judicial proceeding,” that means she’ll “continue to be wrongfully detained under intolerable circumstances.”— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) October 25, 2022
Biden “willing to go to extraordinary lengths…to bring Americans home.” pic.twitter.com/WOR1ljpl3d
The WNBPA released a statement Tuesday morning saying Griner "is very clearly a hostage."
Though the United States government has been working on trying to get Griner home, the matter seems to be less urgent for Russia. On Oct. 16, Kremlin Aide Yury Ushakov told Rossiya-1 -- a state-owned Russian television channel -- that reaching a deal is not currently a priority for Moscow.
"In this tense situation, I think that he (Biden) is thinking first and foremost about the upcoming midterm elections so he keeps emphasizing the need to bring back home the basketball player who was detained for drug smuggling. However, it's not the main issue that we are concerned about," he said.
For more information on Griner's situation,.