Brittney Griner 'won over' Russian prison guards and inmates, and they reassured the WNBA star as she finished her trial
- Prison guards and inmates told Brittney Griner "everything will be OK!" before her sentencing.
- Griner's lawyer said the Russians were "won over" by the American WNBA superstar.
Prison guards and fellow Russian inmates offered Brittney Griner support and encouragement ahead of her final Russian court appearance, her lawyer said.
As the American WNBA superstar walked, handcuffed, to her sentencing hearing on Thursday, those closest to her at the facility where she's been detained reassured her: "Everything will be OK!"
Griner's attorney in Russia, Alexander Boykov, told the court that the WNBA star had "won over" a number of guards and inmates in the Russian prison where she is being held, Jezebel's Emily Liebert reported.
The two-time Olympic gold medalist was ultimately sentenced on Thursday to nine years in Russian prison after being found guilty of large-scale transportation of drugs with criminal intent. She has been held in custody near Moscow since her February arrest, when officials at a Moscow airport found vape cartridges containing hashish oil in her luggage.
She pleaded guilty to the charges early on in her trial — which began four months after she was arrested — with hopes that the move would help reduce her sentence. Instead, Griner received a sentence that was just six months less than prosecutor's requested and one year below the maximum sentence for her charge.
President Joe Biden announced in May that the US government was classifying Griner as "wrongfully detained" and later declared a national emergency to help free wrongful detainees. Just last week, the Biden administration announced that it had offered to swap a convicted Russian arms dealer, Viktor Bout, in exchange for the early release of both Griner and Paul Whelan — a former US Marine also detained in Russia.
But some sources suggested that the eight-time WNBA All-Star would need to be sentenced before a swap could come to fruition.
Russia has yet to formally respond to the administration's offer, but suggested that they would be interested in the swap if the US helps to free an additional convict — a Russian national who was tried, sentenced, and imprisoned for murder in Germany.
John Kirby, the Biden administration's National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications, slammed Russia's counter as "a bad faith attempt to avoid a very serious offer and proposal that the United States has put forward."
Moscow officials fired back that "loudspeaker diplomacy" wouldn't succeed in bringing the detained Americans home, signaling that the US and Russia were still quite far from agreeing to a deal.
Still, there has been mounting public pressure on the Biden administration to get her home, and the prospect of Griner heading to a penal colony only increases the urgency of the situation. Biden, for his part, called on Russia to release Griner immediately after she was sentenced.
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