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A Russian judge sentenced WNBA star Brittney Griner to 9 years in prison on Thursday for smuggling several vape cartridges containing cannabis oil into Russia on February 17.

Judge Anna Sotnikova reduced Griner's 9.5 year sentence by 6 months for time already served.

The judge also ordered Griner to pay 1 million rubles ($16,700 USD) for intentionally breaking Russian law.

Griner stared blankly at the judge when her sentence was translated into English by an interpreter.

The Phoenix Mercury center told the judge she understood she had the right to appeal her conviction.

Rappers 50 Cent, Boosie Badazz, Meek Mill and others reacted to Griner's harsh sentence on social media.

Pop singer Justin Bieber also responded to her conviction and sentencing by offering to help free her.

The Grammy Award winner took to Instagram and asked his followers for suggestions to help him free Griner.

He shared an image of Griner on her way to court. "This hurts. If anyone knows of anyway I can help please let me know," he wrote.

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Griner, who has been detained since her arrest at a Moscow airport, pled guilty on July 7 to accelerate her drug trial.

The Biden administration had offered to swap convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan who was arrested in 2018 and charged with spying for the US.

Sources say Griner knew that any prisoner swap could not occur until her trial was completed. Griner's drug trial, which began in June, was expected to last 6 months under Russian law.

Viktor Bout was convicted in New York of conspiracy to kill Americans in 2012 and sentenced to serve 12 years.

But Russian officials did not express interest in a prisoner exchange for Bout.

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Former President Donald Trump suggested the U.S. should not swap detained WNBA star Brittney Griner for a Russian arms dealer.

Trump made the statement during an interview on the Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show. He insinuated that he would not swap "spoiled" Griner for the "Merchant of Death" Viktor Bout because it "doesn't seem like a very good trade."

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Griner was detained at a Moscow airport on February 17 after officials discovered vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage. She pled guilty in July.

"She knew you don't go in there loaded up with drugs, and she admitted it," Trump said. "I assume she admitted it without too much force because it is what it is, and it certainly doesn't seem like a very good trade, does it? He's absolutely one of the worst in the world, and he's gonna be given his freedom because a potentially spoiled person goes into Russia loaded up with drugs."

Viktor Bout was accused of conspiracy to kill Americans. He was convicted in New York in 2012 and sentenced to 25 years in a federal prison.

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Trump continued: "She went in there loaded up with drugs into a hostile territory where they're very vigilant about drugs. They don't like drugs. And she got caught. And now we're supposed to get her out — and she makes, you know, a lot of money, I guess. We're supposed to get her out for an absolute killer and one of the biggest arms dealers in the world. Killed many Americans. Killed many people."

In 2017, Trump asked China's president to help UCLA men's basketball player LiAngelo Ball and two other players who were caught stealing from a Louis Vuitton store.

After they returned to the US, the three athletes held a press conference where Ball thanked Trump for his help.
 

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Russian officials say no deal has been reached with the US to swap WNBA star Brittney Griner and another detainee for a Russian arms dealer.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the Biden administration made an offer to Moscow, Russia "weeks ago" to secure the release of Griner and former Marine Paul Whelan.

Whelan was arrested in Russia in 2018 and charged with spying.

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After months of inaction, the Biden administration offered to exchange Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for Griner and Whelan.

Viktor Bout, who is dubbed "the merchant of death, is serving a 25-year prison sentence for "conspiracy to kill Americans." He was convicted in New York in 2012.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday that "so far, there is no agreement" to swap Griner or Whelan for a prisoner in the US.

His statement may be an indication that Bout is not as valuable to the Russians as Griner or Whelan.

Blinken said he plans to speak with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in the coming days to discuss the prisoner swap.

"I plan to raise an issue that's a top priority for us: the release of Americans Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner, who have been wrongfully detained and must be allowed to come home," Blinken said. "We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago to facilitate their release. Our governments have communicated repeatedly and directly on that proposal."

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the Biden administration made an offer to Moscow, Russia "weeks ago" to secure the release of detained WNBA star Brittney Griner and another American.

Blinken said the U.S. offered a "substantial proposal" to Russia "weeks ago" for the release of Griner and former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan.

Whelan was arrested in Russia on December 28, 2018, and accused of spying.

"We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago to facilitate their release," Blinken told reporters during a press briefing at the U.S. State Department on Tuesday.

"In the coming days, I expect to speak with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov for the first time since the [Ukraine] war began," Blinken said. "I plan to raise an issue that's a top priority for us: the release of Americans Paul Whelan and Brittney Griner, who have been wrongfully detained and must be allowed to come home. We put a substantial proposal on the table weeks ago to facilitate their release. Our governments have communicated repeatedly and directly on that proposal."

Meanwhile, Russian officials paraded Griner in front of the cameras on day 6 of her drug trial on Tuesday.

She testified in her own defense for the first time in open court. Griner complained that a Russian translator didn't explain everything to her during her arrest at a Moscow airport on February 17.

Griner was detained after vape cartridges containing cannabis oil were discovered in her luggage.

Griner said an interpreter translated a small portion of what was said during her questioning at the airport.

She said officials instructed her to sign documents without providing an explanation of what she was signing on February 17.

Griner said she was aware of a state department advisory warning Americans not to travel to Russia or Ukraine. But she said she wanted to help her Russian basketball team win another championship.

She previously pled guilty to carrying illegal drugs into the country, but she said she was rushing to pack and didn't realize the drugs were in her luggage.

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Brittney Griner was back in court on Thursday after pleading guilty on Tuesday.

Last week, Griner pled guilty to smuggling a small amount of cannabis oil into Russia back in February.

The WNBA star did not testify on the third day of her trial, but character witnesses testified on her behalf.

Journalists were denied access to the courtroom. But the director of the team Griner plays for was allowed to take the witness stand.

"Our task today was to tell the court about her characteristics as an athlete, as a person — tell about how she played a big role in the success of the Ektaerinburg club and Russian women's basketball as a whole," said UMMC Ekaterinburg club director Maxim Rybakov.

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"Today is the first day when we have seen our basketball player since February. Thank God, she feels well, looks good," Rybakov said.

Griner's Russian teammate Evgenia Belyakova testified that "Brittney has always been a very good teammate, so my role here is just to be with her, to support her."

"We miss her very much, we miss her energy," Belyakova added. "I was very happy to see her, and I hope this trial will be over soon and with a positive outcome."

Griner joked with Rybakov and Belyakova as she was led into court.

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A team doctor said Griner had some medical conditions, including ADHD, that were alleviated by cannabis oil.

The doctor said ADHD may have caused her to be distracted when she was packing her bag and she didn't realize the cannabis oil was in there.

Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and WNBA All-Star, is expected to be questioned by the prosecution and the defense when her trial resumes on Friday.

A judge ordered her detained until December 20.
 

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LeBron James walked back statements he made about WNBA star Brittney Griner who is locked up in Russia.

James made the comments in a trailer for an episode of "The Shop: Uninterrupted." He said he would question returning to the United States if he was stuck in a Russian jail.

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Griner was arrested in mid-February at a Moscow-area airport after officials found vape pens containing cannabis oil in her luggage.

She pled guilty to smuggling drugs, and she threw herself on the mercy of the court.

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James suggested Russia may be a better alternative to the United States where Black lawbreakers are gunned down by police before they can get their day in court.

"She's been there over 110 days," he said in the video trailer. "Now, how can she feel like America has her back? I would be feeling like, 'Do I even want to go back to America?'"

James now say he was not bashing the United States by questioning how long it is taking to bring Griner back to American soil.

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Even though both James and Griner have criticized America as racist, James now calls America a "beautiful country."

"[I] wasn't knocking our beautiful country," the Los Angeles Lakers star tweeted Tuesday.

"I was simply saying how she's probably feeling emotionally along with so many other emotions, thoughts, etc inside that cage she's been in for over 100+ days! Long story short #BringHerHome."

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LeBron James says he would question returning to the United States if he was stuck in a Russian jail like Brittney Griner.

The NBA star made the comments during a recent taping of "The Shop" according to TMZ.

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James said Griner has been in jail too long and he'd question returning to America if he was her. He said he wouldn't consider coming back to a country that is taking too long to bring him home.

"Now, how can she feel like America has her back? I would be feeling like, 'Do I even want to go back to America?'"

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James and Griner are among the "woke" NBA and WNBA players who kneeled before games to protest police shootings of Black men.

Both athletes have been heavily criticized for turning their backs on the American flag and military veterans.

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Griner was arrested in mid-February at a Moscow-area airport after officials found vape pens containing cannabis oil in her luggage.

Last week she pled guilty to smuggling drugs into the country and she threw herself on the mercy of the Russian court.

A judge ordered the WNBA All-Star held in detention for at least 6 more months. Her trial is expected to last that long since court is not held there every day.
 

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Brittney Griner sent a letter to the White House pleading for help from the Biden administration.

"I'm terrified I might be here forever," Griner wrote in the letter that was verified by her spokesperson.

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"As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I'm terrified I might be here forever," Griner wrote to Joe Biden. "On the 4th of July, our family normally honors the service of those who fought for our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam War Veteran. It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year."

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She continued:

"Please do all you can to bring us home. I voted for the first time in 2020 and I voted for you. I believe in you. I still have so much good to do with my freedom that you can help restore. I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my teammates! It kills me to know they are suffering so much right now. I am grateful for whatever you can do at this moment to get me home.

"I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don't forget about me and the other detainees."

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Griner's agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, confirmed the letter was delivered to the President on Monday, July 4.

The majority of the letter was not released publicly, but Colas shared snippets with news reporters.

Griner reportedly mentions that her lesbian status and language barrier makes her life difficult in jail.

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The WNBA All-star has been detained since February when she was arrested at a Moscow airport for allegedly carrying vape pens filled with cannabis oil in her luggage.

Griner's trial began on Friday, July 1st. She wore her favorite Jimi Hendrix t-shirt into court. Her trial will resume this week.

Griner faces 10 years in prison if convicted.

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Carmelo Anthony released a video calling for Russia to release political prisoner Brittney Griner from jail.

Carmelo joined LeBron James and other NBA players calling for the release of the WNBA All-Star.

"Hi, I'm Carmelo Anthony," Anthony said in a video posted on his Twitter page on June 3.

"I want to take this time to bring up our friend Brittney Griner. One hundred five Days. It's been 105 days since Brittney Griner has been wrongfully detained in Russia. She is a WNBA player, an Olympian, a teammate, a sister, a daughter, a wife. She is a human and she needs to come home."

Griner has been locked up abroad since February when airport officials found vape pens containing hash oil in her luggage at a Russia area airport.

On Monday, Griner's detention was extended an additional 18 days to July 2nd at "the request of the investigation," ??a Moscow representative told TASS press agency.

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It was the third time Griner's detention was extended by Russia officials. Her attorney's request to release her on home detention was denied.

The Phoenix Mercury met Monday with the U.S. State Department to discuss the status of her case, according to Forbes,

Griner plays basketball for a Russian team during the WNBA's off-season. She earned over $1 million a season in Russia.