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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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A Russian judge sentenced WNBA star Brittney Griner to 9 years in prison on Thursday. Griner pleaded guilty last month to smuggling cannabis oil in vape pens into Russia.

Griner's attorneys asked for leniency, but the judge agreed with the prosecution's recommendation for a sentence of 9.5 years.

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Judge Anna Sotnikova reduced the sentence by 6 months for time served, since Griner has been in custody since her arrest in February.

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

Griner, 31, previously said she was rushing to pack and didn't realize the vape pens were in her luggage.

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The Biden administration has not responded to Griner's quick sentencing. Her trial, which began in June, was expected to last 6 months.

The Biden administration had offered to swap 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.

But former President Donald Trump objected to the prisoner swap. Trump called Griner "spoiled", and he said she should remain in Russia if a prisoner exchange meant endangering American lives.

Griner will be transferred from the detention center to a woman's prison to begin serving her sentence.

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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's drug trial resumed on Tuesday, July 26. The slow-moving trial began on July 1 and is expected to drag on for five months, according to reports.

For her courtroom attire, Griner chose the same Cross Colours Black Lives Matter hoodie she wore when she was arrested at a Moscow airport in mid-February.

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The black hoodie features the words "Cross Colours" on the sleeves and "Black Lives For Peace" on the back.

In an earlier trial, Griner acknowledged carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage when she arrived in Moscow, Russia on Feb. 17.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist and Phoenix Mercury center said she rushed to pack and did not realize the vape pens were in her luggage.

Her attorney presented a letter from a doctor who suggested she use cannabis oil for pre-existing conditions such as ADHD.

The US State Department has officially declared Griner a political prisoner who is "wrongfully detained".

But the Russian government rejected the designation, according to the NY Post.

"If a U.S. citizen was taken in connection with the fact that she was smuggling drugs, and she does not deny this, then this should be commensurate with our Russian local laws, and not with those adopted in San Francisco, New York and Washington," spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.

She added: "If drugs are legalized in the United States, in a number of states, and this is done for a long time and now the whole country will become drug-addicted, this does not mean that all other countries are following the same path."

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Brittney Griner plead guilty on Thursday to carrying cannabis oil into Russia in her luggage in February.

Griner, 31, plead guilty during day 2 of her trial in Khimki, outside Moscow on Thursday, July 7.

"I'd like to plead guilty, your honor. But there was no intent. I didn't want to break the law," Griner said, according to Reuters.

She said she packed her luggage quickly and didn't realize the drugs were in her bag.

"I'd like to give my testimony later. I need time to prepare," she added. Her statement was translated into Russian for the court.

Griner's trial is expected to last several weeks or months, according to reports.

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The two-time Olympic gold medalist and WNBA champion wore a red t-shirt with the word "Crenshaw" on the front and red jogging pants to court.

She was detained at Moscow airport in February on charges of carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage. If convicted, the charge could carry a 10-year prison sentence.

Griner wrote a letter to the Biden administration pleading for help. The letter was delivered to the US President on Monday, July 4.

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Joe Biden spoke to Griner's significant other, Cherelle Griner, on the phone, and assured her that he is working to win her release as soon as possible.

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Fans and players in the WNBA and NBA show support for the political prisoner at every game.

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Her initials "BG" are painted on WNBA and NBA home courts, and players, such as Phoenix Mercury teammate Diana Taurasi and Celtics star Jaylen Brown, wear t-shirts with her name and initials printed on them.

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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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Joe Biden says Americans should expect to pay record high gas prices for "as long as it takes".

The US President made the statements Thursday at a press conference in Madrid, when a reporter asked him how long Americans should expect to pay high gas prices.

"As long as it takes, so Russia cannot, in fact, defeat Ukraine, and move beyond Ukraine," Biden responded. "This is a critical, critical position for the world."

Biden pledged $800 million in additional military aid to Ukraine on Thursday. The additional aid to Ukraine brings the total US contribution to $20 billion.

Gas prices remain at record highs as Americans hit the road heading into the long 4th of July holiday weekend.

The national average price for a gallon of gasoline is $4.86, down slightly from $4.94 per gallon a week ago.

Joe Biden's Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese made similar statements on Thursday during an interview on CNN.

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CNN host Victor Blackwell (left) asked Deese, "What do you say to those families that say, 'listen, we can't afford to pay $4.85 a gallon for months, if not years?'"

"This is about the future of the liberal world order and we have to stand firm," Deese replied.

Deese's remarks quickly went viral on Twitter, as Twitter users debated the meaning of "liberal world order."

As of Friday morning, the video was viewed 1.3 million times on Twitter.

The Biden administration has previously said Americans should go out and buy electric vehicles if they're unhappy with high gas prices at the pump.

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A trial date has been set for WNBA star Brittney Griner who appeared at a pre-trial hearing on Monday in Moscow, Russia.

A judge set Griner's court date for Friday, July 1, and extended her detention another 6 months. This is the fourth time Griner's pre-trial detention was extended.

Griner was arrested on February 17 after officials at a Moscow airport found vape pens containing weed oil in her luggage.

Pictures taken in Moscow on Monday show Griner, 31, looking wide-eyed and anxious as she was escorted into court. She was previously ordered detained until July 2nd.

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The 6-ft-8 Phoenix Mercury center wore a grey t-shirt with grey sweatpants and a black sweatshirt tied around her waist. She was handcuffed to a Russian official.

Griner could face 10 years in prison if found guilty of trafficking a large quantity of drugs for distribution.

After months of silence, the U.S. State Department declared Griner a "wrongfully detained" political prisoner in early May.

Former Marine Trevor Reed was released from a Russian prison in April, after serving three years of a nine year sentence for assaulting a police officer.

The same State Department official who negotiated Reed's release is also negotiating Griner's release.

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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.

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News of the US/Russia prisoner swap that freed former U.S. Marine Trevor Reed was met with mixed reactions on social media.

The U.S. State Department swapped a Russian drug lord for Reed this week.

Reed's return to U.S. soil was met with celebration, but WNBA fans expressed dismay that the Biden administration didn't include Brittney Griner in that exchange.

The WNBA all-star is still languishing in a Russian jail and is now one of two high-profile U.S. citizens detained in Russia.

Brittney's petition on Change.org grew to nearly 80,000 signers calling out the administration and others for not doing more to free the Phoenix Mercury center.

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Griner's petition is one of the fastest-growing petitions on Change.org's site this year.

The 31-year-old was arrested upon her arrival at a Moscow airport in February. Officials say they found vape cartridges containing oil derived from the marijuana plant.

Griner remains in pretrial detention until May 19. She faces 10 years in prison if convicted.

Griner's life partner, Cherelle Griner, expressed joy for Reed's family in a post on Instagram.

"I do not personally know them, but I do the pain of having your loved one detained in a foreign country. That level of pain is constant and can only be remediated by a safe return home. For the Reed family, that day is today."

A Twitter user wrote: "I'm so happy for Trevor Reed and his family! However, we need to do the same for Brittney Griner."

"What about Brittney Griner, tho?" another person tweeted.

"Brittney Griner couldn't get in on the release???" a third person asked.

"Why is it so hard to get Brittany Griner home??? ... The US just let a Russian drug lord go you would've thought the marine and Brittany would've been a good trade for US," another added.

The WNBA season begins on May 6 and Brittney Griner will not be there," writes publicist Alaina Curry. "The Department of State recently made comments that Griner's case is a "top priority" but will this be soon?"

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The WNBA Players Association believes seven-time WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner is imprisoned in Russia "because of a gender issue."

The Phoenix Mercury star has been detained in Russian for 56 days. The 31-year-old WNBA center was charged with smuggling hash oil or weed oil into Russia in February.

Griner's name was pushed out of the headlines after Will Smith assaulted comedian Chris Rock at the 2022 Oscars on March 27.

The WNBA draft on Monday put the focus back on Griner.

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Nneka Ogwumike, president of the WNBA Players Association, appeared on "Good Morning America" Tuesday to discuss Griner's situation.

Ogwumike said the initial strategy was to remain silent to prevent the Russians from using Griner for political leverage. However, now that strategy has changed.

"We move intentionally and given the nature of Brittney's situation -- it was very important for us to be intentional about doing the best thing to ensure that we don't compromise her coming home," Ogwumike told Robin Roberts.

"A lot of that had to do with educating ourselves about the details of what was going on. As much as we could know. But then understanding how important it was for us to be strategic about when and how we speak about her."

Griner's request to be released on house arrest in Russia was denied last month. Ogwumike said Griner's gender is the reason why she's still in pretrial detention.

"When is it not? It's disappointing that the question of it being a gender issue is top of mind now when it comes to this type of circumstance and the reality is she's over there because of a gender issue, pay inequity," she said.

"I played in Russia for four years and played in Poland for one year and China for two years. We go over there to supplement our incomes and quite frankly to maintain our game. Our teams encourage us to keep up with our game by going over there and being more competitive. There's so much that's at play that, you know, we live politically intrinsically."

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Griner earned $1.5 million per season playing for a Russian women's basketball team. Her salary with the Mercury was $228,000 a season.

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert mentioned Griner's situation during the WNBA draft on Monday.

"Before we get into tonight's events, I want to take a moment to reiterate the WNBA's support for Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner," she said. "Please know that getting her home safely continues to be our top priority."
 

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A State Department spokesman said a U.S. embassy official met with WNBA center Brittney Griner who is being held in a Russian jail on a drug charge.

State Department spokesman Ned Price told CNN Griner is in "good condition."

Price said that officials wanted to make sure Griner is "treated fairly" as her case winds through the Russian legal system.

Griner, 31, was arrested on February 17 at a Moscow airport after a search of her luggage turned up vape cartridges containing weed oil.

A judge recently extended Griner's pretrial detainment until her next hearing on May 19.
 
Brittney Griner Breaks Down and Cries in ESPN Interview (Video)
 
The judge denied Griner's request to be released on house arrest. Griner has a residence in Russia where she plays winter ball during the WNBA off season.

Under Russian law, prosecutors have 18 months before they have to bring Griner to trial.

She is reportedly sharing a jail cell with two English speaking Russian inmates who help her communicate with jailers and order books.

Griner communicates with her family through her Russian lawyers.

She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

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Former President Donald Trump called into "Varney & Co." on the Fox Business Network to discuss the Russia/Ukraine conflict on Tuesday.

During the call, host Stuart Varney continuously pressed Trump to say the "n-word."

Trump avoided using the n-word until around the 6-minute mark of the video when he discussed Russian President Vladimir Putin threatening Ukraine and the United States.

"I hated to do it, but I rebuilt our nuclear capabilities," Trump said. "Now we have brand new stuff that's immensely powerful. And hope to God you never have to use it because that would be the tragedy of all tragedies."

He continued: "But I listen to [Putin] constantly using the n-word, that's the n-word, and he's constantly using it, the nuclear word... And they say 'Oh, he's a nuclear power.' But we're a greater nuclear power."

Speaking directly to the Biden administration, Trump said, "You should say 'Look, if you mention that word one more time, we're going to send [nukes] over and we'll be coasting back and forth up and down your coast.' You can't let this tragedy continue. You can't let thousands of people die."

The former president said he had a good relationship with Putin, but the Russian president is a "different" man now. Trump suggested Putin may have a mental issue.

Trump was adamant that Russia would not have invaded Ukraine if he was still in office.

"Someday you and I will sit down and I'll tell you why," Trump told Varney before the video ended abruptly.

Watch the video below.