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Brittney Griner's Sentence Sparks Outrage From Joe Biden, NBA and More

Newsweek logo Newsweek 8/4/2022 Carla Sosenko
On Aug. 4, Griner was found guilty of drug smuggling with criminal intent in Russia, with sentencing yet to come. Here, a police officer escorts Griner before her hearing in Khimki, Russia, on Aug. 2. © Natalia Kolesnikova/AFP/Getty On Aug. 4, Griner was found guilty of drug smuggling with criminal intent in Russia, with sentencing yet to come. Here, a police officer escorts Griner before her hearing in Khimki, Russia, on Aug. 2.

Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison Thursday in Russia after being found guilty of drug smuggling with criminal intent.

Griner, who also was fined 1 million rubles (a little more than $16,000), is expected to serve her sentence in a penal colony. After the sentencing, social media was (for the most part) enraged.

Griner, 31, was arrested and accused of possession of vape cartridges of cannabis oil at a Moscow airport in February, Newsweek reported. Her defense team has maintained that Griner mistakenly packed the cartridges, but "criminal intent" portion of the verdict was a clear rejection of the defense.

In a statement, Griner's Russian law firm told Newsweek: "We are very disappointed by the verdict. As legal professionals, we believe that the court should be fair to everyone regardless of nationality. The court completely ignored all the evidence of the defense and, most importantly, the guilty plea. This contradicts the existing legal practice."

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Her legal team has said from the start that it would plan to appeal, adding on Thursday: "The court completely ignored all evidence."

When news of the verdict broke, former teammates, celebrity supporters, fellow athletes, politicians and even some detractors were quick to share their reactions.

President Joe Biden said in a statement: "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."

Biden's administration had been in talks with Russia about a trade of Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for Griner and American Paul Whelan, who has been detained in Russia for alleged spying since 2018. Russian President Vladimir Putin could try to use Griner's conviction as a bargaining chip amid increasingly tense U.S.-Russia relations.

Griner is a Black American who is also a lesbian. Russia notoriously has an LGBTQ "propaganda" ban. Some followers of the case have questioned how much those elements, combined with the state of the U.S. relationship with Russia since the start of the Ukraine war in late February, possibly influenced the verdict.

Read on for more Twitter reactions to Griner's sentencing.

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