Biden Administration Considers Prisoner Swap After Brittney Griner Is Sentenced To 9 Years in Russian Prison

The women's basketball star's sentencing was one year less than the maximum of 10 years for drug smuggling and possession.

Brittney Griner is a global women's basketball star. She was just sentenced to nine years in prison in Russia, creating a problem for the Biden administration that might require a prisoner swap.

How the situation started: In February, before the Russia-Ukraine war, Griner, competing in the Russian basketball league, traveled through Russian customs. Officials found weed cartridges in her luggage and promptly detained her.

Griner pleaded guilty during the trial, saying it was an “honest mistake” and that she did not intend to bring the cartridges with her. The goal was leniency, but she was convicted of drug smuggling and possession charges. Her sentencing was one year less than the maximum of 10 years.

Political prisoner? Some analysts say that Griner was sentenced harshly because of the adversarial relationship between the United States and Russia. Still, Griner's sentencing is in line with Russia's strict drug penalties, and Russian law scholars were not shocked by the outcome.

Biden’s move: The Biden administration wants to bring Griner back home, which would require a prisoner swap. U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced that he has an offer to exchange a Russian arms dealer known as the “merchant of death” for the basketball star.

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