Brittney Griner has been sentenced to 9 years in a Russian prison, on charges of smuggling drugs into the country. Griner’s lawyers said, in a statement sent with PEOPLE, that the verdict, which is below the maximum sentence of 10 years, is “absolutely unreasonable” and stated they will “certainly file an appeal.”
An Russian judge read Griner verdict Thursday about an hour after her lawyers and the prosecution presented their closing arguments. The Phoenix Mercury basketball star had given an emotional speech, reiterating her stance that though she pled guilty to taken less than 1 gram of cannabis oil into Russia, she did so “inadvertently” and asked the court for leniency.
“That’s why I pled guilty to my charges. I understand everything that’s been said against me, the charges that are against me and that is why I pled guilty but I had no intents to break any Russian laws,” Griner said CNN reported.
In a statement, President Joe Biden said the ruling is “unacceptable.”
“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,” he said. “It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates. My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”
Russian prosecutors asked the judge during closing arguments to sentence Griner to nine years and six months in prison, right below the maximum allowed sentence of 10 years. The prosecution asked that Griner was fined 1 million rubles, which is equivalent to $16,600 in American money, according to The New York Times.
While the Russian court ruled on Griner’s case, the Biden administration is still working on a deal with Russian officials to bring Griner and Paul Whelan, another American imprisoned in the country, back to the states. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Thursday that the ruling “spotlights our concerns with the Russian government’s use of wrongful detentions.”