Brittany Griner’s legal team plans to appeal 9-year prison sentence

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After a Russian court sentenced Brittany Griner to nine years in prison for drug smuggling, the WNBA star’s legal team is planning to appeal the decision amid a potential prisoner swap between the United States and Russia, according to PEOPLE.

“We need to use every legal opportunity that we have, and appeal is one of these opportunities,” Maria Blagovolina, one of the attorneys representing Griner, told reporters following the Thursday (August 4) verdict.

She explains they must appeal within 10 days, which would take place in front of a different judge and court. The lawyer also stressed that the process may take months.

Last week, the U.S. offered to trade convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout for 31-year-old Griner and Paul Whelan, another imprisoned American in Russia. Russian officials also requested former Russian spy and convicted murderer Vadim Krasikov in the deal, per CNN.

If the exchange goes through, Griner could leave Russia and the appeals process would be dropped “immediately,” according to Alexander Boykov of the Moscow Legal Center.

Griner, who plays for the Phoenix Mercury, was arrested for bringing medical marijuana into a Moscow airport on February 17. During the trial, Blagovolina argued Griner never intended to use cannabis oil in the country and wasn’t aware of Russia’s strict laws.

“I never meant to hurt anybody, I never meant to put in jeopardy the Russian population, I never meant to break any laws here,” the WNBA player said in court before the verdict. “I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling that it doesn’t end my life here.”

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