WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner is one step closer to appealing her nine-year prison sentence for drug possession after a Russian court on Monday (Oct. 3) scheduled a hearing for Oct. 25, The Associated Press reports.
On Aug. 4, Judge Anna Sotnikova of the Khimki city court convicted and sentenced the two-time Olympic gold medalist for the vape canisters containing cannabis oil that Russian authorities found in her luggage at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport in February.
After the hearing, Griner’s lawyer Alexander Boykov said the sentence was excessive, noting that the average jail time for this type of crime is five years, with nearly a third of those convicted released on parole, CNN reported. Griner’s legal team also accused the court of ignoring evidence they presented.
This appeal comes as the United States and Russia negotiate a possible prisoner swap that would reportedly free Griner and fellow detained American Paul Whelen in exchange for Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year sentence in a U.S. prison.
According to the AP, the White House has not yet received a productive response from Russia to the offer. And Russia has declined to comment on the swap.
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden met separately in September with Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner and Whelan’s sister, Elizabeth Whelan, ESPN reported. He assured them that the detainees “are at the front of mind.”