A Russian court sentenced U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner to nine years in prison on Thursday after finding her guilty of deliberately bringing cannabis-infused vape cartridges into Russia, a ruling that President Joe Biden called “unacceptable.”
Griner was arrested in mid-February, and her case threw the Texan athlete into the geopolitical maelstrom triggered when President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24, propelling U.S.-Russian relations to a new post-Cold War low.
Griner’s sentencing could now pave the way for a U.S.-Russia prisoner swap that would include the 31-year-old athlete and an imprisoned Russian who was once a prolific arms dealer.
Griner had admitted having the vape cartridges containing hashish oil but said it was an honest mistake. Before the verdict, she pleaded with a Russian judge not to “end her life” with a harsh prison sentence, before breaking down in tears in court. The court also fined her 1 million roubles ($16,990).