WNBA star Brittney Griner was found guilty on drug charges and sentenced to nine years in prison on Thursday in a Moscow-area court. Griner has been detained in Russia for over five months.
Hours before the verdict and sentencing was handed down, prosecutors in the case requested that Griner serve 9 ½ years in prison.
The 31-year-old Phoenix Mercury star and two-time Olympic Gold Medalist was detained on Feb. 17 after she was accused of carrying vape cartridges containing hashish oil — an illegal substance in Russia — in her luggage through Sheremetyevo International Airport.
Before the verdict, the basketball star was allowed to share a statement in which she apologized to her loved ones for any hurt she may have caused through her detainment.
In a statement to ABC News, Griner's legal team said that her "guilty" plea from last month came at the recommendation of her Russian attorneys.
"Brittney sets an example of being brave. She decided to take full responsibility for her actions as she knows that she is a role model for many people," the statement said. "Considering the nature of her case, the insignificant amount of the substance and BG's personality and history of positive contributions to global and Russian sport, the defense hopes that the plea will be considered by the court as a mitigating factor and there will be no severe sentence."
Since her detainment, there has been a public outcry in the U.S., from athletes to politicians, calling for her to be released.
President Joe Biden has shared that his administration is in talks with Russia about a possible prisoner exchange to bring Griner back to the U.S. along with a detained former marine, Paul Whelan, in exchange for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
Following the sentencing of Griner President Biden released a statement in which he called her detainment wrongful.
"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. It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates," the statement said. "My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible."
Griner is allowed to appeal the ruling.