Britney Griner Is Finally Home

via+BBC

via BBC

After almost 10 months in Russian custody, WNBA star Brittney Griner is finally home in the U.S. The ordeal started on February 17 when Griner was accused of bringing cannabis oil vape cartridges into Sheremetyevo Airport in Khimki, Russia. Griner was in Russia during this time because she plays basketball for UMMC Yekaterinburg during the WNBA offseason where she makes substantially more money than in the WNBA. Griner was then taken into Russian custody where they extended her trial until May 19 which was a big concern as Russia had just invaded Ukraine and tensions were now extremely high between the U.S and Russia.

Griner in Russian Court via (PaperMag.com)

Griner’s pre-trial custody was extended four times and her trial was set for July 1. With the amount of time Griner was in Russian custody she felt she had no hope and wrote a handwritten letter directly to President Joe Biden that said “As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever.” According to White Hosue press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre President Biden read this hand-written letter and it became a top priority for him. Griner’s trial continued when she pleaded guilty but she and her team argued that the cartridges were brought in by accident and that the cartridges were medically prescribed by a medical doctor for chronic pain.

This argument couldn’t sway the Russian court as Griner was found guilty on drug charges and sentenced to 9 years in the Russian prison system. Griner would be sent to a penal colony which in Russia is known to be grueling for the prisoners as they go through grueling labor and live in terrible conditions. The conditions in the prison are so bad that every time Griner showered her long dreadlocked hair would freeze since there was no heating. With this happening to her she was forced to cut her hair to avoid unnecessary pain for her. The colony she worked in forced its prisoners to sew uniforms but with Griner’s 6-8 frame she was unable to sit at the workbenches to even try to sew. This led to her being forced to carry fabric all day as that was the only thing fit for her in the colony.

Accused U.S spy Paul Wheelan via (freep.com)

After months of living in these conditions, the U.S. and Russia came to a deal where Russia would send Griner in exchange for

convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout who was in U.S. custody. The transfer happened in the United Arab Emirates where both prisoners were exchanged and flown back to their respective countries. But this trade didn’t come without some controversy as it

Arms Dealer Viktor Bout via (DallasNews.com)

seemed dangerous to trade a basketball player for an arms dealer who could cause harm to the world if freed again. Additionally, the U.S. left former marine and Russian accused espionage, Paul Whelan, in Russia after some were calling for the U.S. to get them both home. But President Biden attempted to get Whelen home and according to ABC news said “Sadly, for totally illegitimate reasons, Russia treating Paul’s case differently than Brittney’s.” So though Whelen isn’t home today it seems Biden and the White House will do whatever it takes to get him back to the U.S. But now that this ordeal is finally over Griner can finally go back home to her family and get back to living a normal life in the U.S.