A Russian judge upheld Brittney Griner’s conviction on drug smuggling charges on Tuesday and only marginally reduced her nine-year prison term. The judge left the verdict in place.
The judge decided to modify Griner’s sentence to include the time she spent in pretrial detention following her arrest on February 17 at a Moscow airport, with each day in pretrial custody counted as 1.5 days toward her prison sentence. It wasn’t immediately obvious how much the sentence would be shortened by it.
The judgment was reached following a Tuesday appeal session during which Griner, who the US believes was illegally held, once again expressed her regret and pleaded with the court for a lighter term, claiming the finding was unfair and unwarranted by Russian law.
The counsel urged the court to acquit her, claiming that Griner’s sentence was excessive and that the previous court’s finding that Griner had criminal intent was incorrect.
Following the hearing, Griner’s attorneys expressed their dissatisfaction, claiming in a statement that the verdict “contains several faults” and that they believe “the punishment is severe.”
By suggesting a prisoner swap with Russia, US officials have attempted to gain the release of Griner and Paul Whelan, another American who is detained in Russia. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement on Tuesday that those efforts have continued recently and that the most recent hearing was a “sham,” adding that President Biden has been very clear that Brittney needs to be released very away.