Aug 4, 2022 - News

Arizona politicians react to Brittney Griner's nine year sentence

Guards escort Brittney Griner from a Russian courtroom
Brittney Griner is escorted from a courtroom yesterday in Khimki, Russia. Photo: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner was found guilty on drug charges by a Russian court Thursday and sentenced to nine years in prison.

  • Her sentencing concluded a trial that has captured national attention and reached the highest levels of U.S. diplomacy, Axios' Ivana Saric reported.

What's next: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday that Moscow is "ready to discuss" a prisoner swap for Griner and Marine Corps veteran Paul Whelan.

Driving the news: Griner's conviction comes nearly six months after she was arrested at a Moscow airport when Russian authorities said they found a vape cartridge with hashish oil in her luggage.

What they're saying: The conviction was met with swift condemnation from the Mercury.

  • "While we knew it was never the legal process that was going to bring our friend home, today's verdict is a sobering milestone in the 168-day nightmare being endured by our sister, BG," the Mercury said in a press statement. "We remain heartbroken for her, as we have every day for nearly six months."
  • The team said it has faith that the Biden administration will do whatever it takes to end Griner's imprisonment.

Several elected officials from Arizona expressed similar sentiments, with Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly saying in a statement to Axios Phoenix, "This sentence is completely unjust and again demonstrates how Russia has wrongfully detained Brittney Griner. I've worked with my colleagues to build support for her release, and am going to ensure that her safe return remains a top priority for the administration."

  • Kelly and Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema's offices both emphasized that they've been in regular contact with the State Department throughout Griner's ordeal.

What else they're saying: Rep. Ruben Gallego (D) tweeted that Griner's conviction was "as unsurprising as it was unjust," and said, "It's clear that Russia sees Ms. Griner as a political pawn in their war in Ukraine."

  • Rep. Greg Stanton (D) wrote on Twitter, "This trial was a sham from the very beginning—and today's excessive, unjust sentence makes it clearer than ever that Brittney Griner is being held by Russia for purely political purposes."
  • In a press statement, President Biden called for Griner's immediate release and said, "Today, American citizen Brittney Griner received a prison sentence that is one more reminder of what the world already knew: Russia is wrongfully detaining Brittney."

U.S. officials have maintained that Griner was "wrongfully detained" by Russia.

Before Thursday night's game between the Mercury and the Connecticut Sun, players met at mid-court and silently bowed their heads for 42 seconds — a nod to Griner's jersey number.

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