The American basketball player has been detained in Russia after being arrested at a Moscow airport after a vape canister containing cannabis oil was found in his bag.
Griner apologized to his family and his team as a Russian court heard final arguments in his drug possession trial ahead of the verdict.
In his final remarks, Griner said he had no intention of breaking Russian law by bringing vape cartridges containing cannabis oil when flying to Moscow in February.
He said: “I have made an honest mistake, and I hope it will not end my life under your rule.”
Prosecutors asked the presiding judge to sentence Griner to nine-and-a-half years in prison, and the judge said he had proved his case.
The basketball player had only 0.7 grams of THC when he was arrested at the airport, but that’s enough for the Russian justice system to find him guilty and probably condemn him to years in prison.
A conviction was certain in this case, but acquittals in Russian courts are an extremely rare event, with less than one percent of defendants found not guilty.
Griner’s trial could have consequences at a high diplomatic level beyond a simple court case as he could be returned to the US as part of a prisoner swap deal.
Prosecutors have pushed for a longer sentence in the case, so the only hope for a speedy return to home soil for Griner could be such a deal going forward.
The sentence she faces is entirely up to the judge, who appealed for Griner to be lenient in her case, admitting that her crime was committed by mistake rather than malice.
US officials have offered to swap Griner and another American with Russian arms smuggler Viktor Bout, known as the ‘merchant of death’.
They believe Griner was “wrongfully detained” and want to replace him with Paul Whelan, who was detained in Russia in 2018 and sentenced to 16 years in prison for espionage.
In 2012, Bout was sentenced to 25 years in prison for planning to illegally sell weapons worth millions of dollars.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday that Russia has “bad faith” in the US government’s offer of a prisoner swap, though did not elaborate on the details of the deal.
Griner was in Russia to play for the Russian basketball team UMMC Ekaterinburg during the WNBA off-season.