A Timeline of Brittney Griner's Detainment in Russia

A Timeline of Brittney Griner's Detainment in Russia

It's been a long road for Brittney Griner.

The WNBA star, 31, was detained in Russia on Feb. 17, 2022, for allegedly possessing cannabis oil in her luggage after arriving in Moscow from New York City. On Aug. 4, she was sentenced to nine years in prison following a weeks-long trial.

News broke on July 27 that the Biden administration had offered a prisoner swap with Russia to secure the release of both Griner and American prisoner Paul Whelan, with sources telling CNN that they had offered to return Viktor Bout, a Russian prisoner in the United States serving 25 years for arms trafficking.

As friends, family and fans hopefully await the return of Griner, here is everything we know about her case.

March 5, 2022: News of Brittney Griner's Detainment Breaks

In the WNBA off-season, the Phoenix Mercury star plays for UMMC Ekaterinburg, a Russian basketball team based in the city of Yekaterinburg that competes in the Russian Premier League and FIBA Europe's EuroLeague Women.

PEOPLE reported that on Feb. 17, as she was on her way to join the team, Griner was stopped at Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport after a customs dog indicated there were drugs in the player's carry-on bag. After officers searched the bag and found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil, Griner was taken into Russian custody and charged with smuggling "narcotic drugs" into the country, where marijuana is illegal.

Seven days after Griner's arrest, Russia invade Ukraine, putting the country further at odds with the rest of the world.

March 7, 2022: Brittney Griner's Wife Speaks Out

As the WNBA and USA Basketball released statements, Griner's wife Cherelle spoke out for the first time, too, posting on Instagram, "We love you babe! People say 'stay busy.' Yet, there's not a task in this world that could keep any of us from wondering if you are safe. My heart, our hearts, are all skipping beats every day that goes by without hearing from you. I miss your voice. I miss your presence. You're our person! There are no words to express this pain. I'm hurting, we're hurting. We await the day to love on you as a family."

Mandatory Credit: Photo by MAXIM SHIPENKOV/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (13014239d) Two-time Olympic gold medalist and WNBA player Brittney Griner is escorted to a courtroom for a hearing, in Khimki City Court, outside Moscow, Russia, 01 July 2022. The Khimki City Court reportedly had extended Greiner's detention for the duration of her trial on charges of drug smuggling that started on 01 July. Griner, a World Champion player of the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury team was arrested in February at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport after some hash oil was detected and found in her luggage, for which she now could face a prison sentence of up to ten years. Brittney Griner hearing at Khimki City Court outside Moscow, Khinki, Russian Federation - 01 Jul 2022
Mandatory Credit: Photo by MAXIM SHIPENKOV/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (13014239d) Two-time Olympic gold medalist and WNBA player Brittney Griner is escorted to a courtroom for a hearing, in Khimki City Court, outside Moscow, Russia, 01 July 2022. The Khimki City Court reportedly had extended Greiner's detention for the duration of her trial on charges of drug smuggling that started on 01 July. Griner, a World Champion player of the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury team was arrested in February at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport after some hash oil was detected and found in her luggage, for which she now could face a prison sentence of up to ten years. Brittney Griner hearing at Khimki City Court outside Moscow, Khinki, Russian Federation - 01 Jul 2022

MAXIM SHIPENKOV/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

March 8, 2022: Brittney Griner Is Seen for the First Time Since Her Arrest as Congress Works on Her Release

In a grainy image that appeared on Russian state TV, Griner held up a sign with her name on it following her arrest. Meanwhile, both Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and Rep. Colin Allred (D-Texas) announced they were working with the State Department to bring the athlete home.

"I know the administration is working hard to try and get access to her and try to be helpful here. But obviously, it's also happening in the context of really strained relations," said Allred. "I do think that it's really unusual that we've not been granted access to her from our embassy and our consular services."

The House Foreign Affairs Committee member continued, "The Russian criminal justice system is very different than ours, very opaque. We don't have a lot of insight into where she is in that process right now. But she's been held for three weeks now, and that's extremely concerning."

March 17, 2022: Brittney Griner's Detainment Is Extended

Russian state news agency TASS reported that Griner was ordered to remain in custody for an additional two months, according to CNN and Newsweek.

"The court granted the request of the investigation and extended the period of detention of the US citizen Griner until May 19," the Russian court said, per the outlets.

Video shared online via Russian news site Mash appeared to show the Phoenix Mercury star walking through a courthouse with two female officers by her side.

RELATED: Everything to Know as Brittney Griner's Trial Begins in Russia

Brittney Griner smiles inside a defendants' cage during a hearing at the Khimki Court in the town of Khimki outside Moscow on July 15, 2022
Brittney Griner smiles inside a defendants' cage during a hearing at the Khimki Court in the town of Khimki outside Moscow on July 15, 2022

NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP via Getty Images

March 23, 2022: U.S. Official Meets with Brittney Griner

One month after her detention, Griner met with a consular official who reported the athlete was doing "as well as can be expected," according to U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price. "We'll continue to work very closely with her legal team, with her broader network, to see to it that she is treated fairly and that her rights are respected."

Days earlier, a source told PEOPLE that Griner had been meeting with her Russian legal team "multiple times a week over the entire course of her detention."

May 13, 2022: Brittney Griner's Detainment Is Extended Again

Griner's detainment was again extended in May, though her lawyer Alexander Boykov told AP that the change likely meant her case would be heading to trial soon. The athlete appeared at a hearing on May 13, keeping her face down choosing not to express "any complaints about the detention conditions," Boykov told AP.

Around that same time, the U.S. State Department classified Griner's arrest as wrongful detainment, meaning the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs would begin overseeing the situation.

According to the Associated Press, the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs will now oversee Griner's case. That State Department office is focused on hostage release and the freeing of wrongfully detained Americans.

June 15, 2022: Brittney Griner's Detainment Is Extended for a Third Time — and a Trial Date Is Set

ABC News reported that Griner's detention was extended through July 2. Officials would be holding her longer at "the request of the investigation," per a rep for the Khimki Court of the Moscow Region, according to TASS.

Two weeks later, Griner's lawyer told the New York Times the trial would start on July 1.

In the meantime, fellow athletes including LeBron James, Megan Rapinoe, Stephen Curry, Charles Barkley and Sue Bird voiced love and support for the star's safe return, as the WNBA made her an honorary starter in the league's all-star game and the House passed a bipartisan resolution pushing Russia for her release.

Star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted to a courtroom for a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, . American basketball star Brittney Griner returns Tuesday to a Russian courtroom for her drawn-out trial on drug charges that could bring her 10 years in prison if convicted Russia Griner, Moscow, Russian Federation - 25 Jul 2022
Star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner is escorted to a courtroom for a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, Russia, . American basketball star Brittney Griner returns Tuesday to a Russian courtroom for her drawn-out trial on drug charges that could bring her 10 years in prison if convicted Russia Griner, Moscow, Russian Federation - 25 Jul 2022

Evgenia Novozhenina/AP/Shutterstock Brittney Griner is escorted into the courtroom Tuesday

July 1, 2022: Brittney Griner's Trial Begins

On day one of Griner's trial, which began more than four months after she was first detained, officials accused her of moving a "significant amount" of cannabis oil, according to Russian media. Prosecutors also questioned the customs agents who searched Griner's luggage.

On July 4, representatives for Griner released excerpts from a handwritten note she sent to President Joe Biden, pleading for her release.

"I'm terrified I might be here forever," she wrote in part. "I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don't forget about me and the other detainees. Please do all you can to bring us home. I voted for the first time in 2020 and I voted for you. I believe in you. I still have so much good to do with my freedom that you can help restore."

"I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my teammates!" she continued. "It kills me to know they are suffering so much right now. I am grateful for whatever you can do at this moment to get me home."

As Griner's wife continued to speak out about the athlete's "complete vulnerability" and her own "zero trust" in the government's ability to get her home, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris called Cherelle to "reassure her that [they] are working to secure Brittney's release as soon as possible," according to a statement from the White House. Biden also wrote a letter in reply to Griner.

RELATED: What to Know About Brittney Griner's Daily Life in a Russian Detention Center

July 7, 2022: Brittney Griner Pleads Guilty

On the second day of her trial, Griner pleaded guilty to charges of smuggling drugs into Russia, NPR reported.

The WNBA star said that she did bring cannabis products into the country, but that she was packing quickly and did not mean to break the law, saying she did so "inadvertently."

"I'd like to plead guilty, your honor. But there was no intent. I didn't want to break the law," Griner, who pointedly held up a photo of herself and her wife Cherelle as she walked into court, said, according to Reuters. "I'd like to give my testimony later. I need time to prepare."

In a statement from Griner's legal team, Maria Blagovolina from Rybalkin Gortsunyan Dyakin and Alexander Boykov from Moscow Legal Center, shared with PEOPLE, they said her plea "was her decision informed by discussion with her legal defense team in Russia."

"Brittney sets an example of being brave. She decided to take full responsibility for her actions as she knows that she is a role model for many people," the statement continued.

In the U.S. that day, Griner's wife Cherelle and the star's Phoenix Mercury teammates held a "Bring BG Home" rally at the WNBA team's Footprint Center in Arizona.

Two-time Olympic gold medalist and WNBA's Phoenix Mercury player Brittney Griner (C) is escorted to a courtroom for a hearing at the Khimki City Court outside Moscow, Russia, 27 July 2022. Griner, a World Champion player of the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury team was arrested in February at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport after some hash oil was detected and found in her luggage, for which she now could face a prison sentence of up to ten years. US basketball player Brittney Griner attends hearing on drug charges, Khimki, Russian Federation - 27 Jul 2022
Two-time Olympic gold medalist and WNBA's Phoenix Mercury player Brittney Griner (C) is escorted to a courtroom for a hearing at the Khimki City Court outside Moscow, Russia, 27 July 2022. Griner, a World Champion player of the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury team was arrested in February at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport after some hash oil was detected and found in her luggage, for which she now could face a prison sentence of up to ten years. US basketball player Brittney Griner attends hearing on drug charges, Khimki, Russian Federation - 27 Jul 2022

YURI KOCHETKOV/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock Brittney Griner

July 14, 2022: Brittney Griner's Russian Basketball Teammates Testify on Her Behalf

At Griner's third hearing, members of UMMC Yekaterinburg spoke highly of Griner's contributions, according to The New York Times. The director of the team, Maksim Ryabkov, testified to Griner's "outstanding abilities as a player and personal contribution to the strengthening [of] the team's spirit," the basketball star's lawyer told the Times.

Along with Ryabkov, a team doctor and the team's captain, Evgeniya Belyakova, also testified, with Belyakova telling the court that Griner is "the heart of our team," according to NPR's Charles Maynes.

July 15, 2022: Brittney Griner's Lawyers Share Her Medical Records

Griner's lawyers told the court that she has a doctor's note recommending she use cannabis as a pain treatment.

"The attending physician gave Brittney recommendations for the use of medical cannabis. The permission was issued on behalf of the Arizona Department of Health," Griner's lawyer Blagovolina said during Griner's fourth hearing, the Associated Press reported.

The basketball star's defense team also submitted the results of anti-doping tests taken by Griner, which showed no signs of illegal substances in her system, the outlet added.

The next week, on July 26, the court heard from a narcology expert, The New York Times reported, per Griner's lawyers, in an effort to explain that medical cannabis "is a popular treatment, specifically among athletes."

However, Griner's lawyer continued to say she "involuntarily" brought the cannabis in her suitcase.

"We are not arguing that Brittney took it here as a medicine," her attorney Alexander Boykov said, adding, "The Russian public has to know, and the Russian court in the first place has to know, that it was not used for recreational purposes in the United States. It was prescribed by a doctor."

As Griner sat in a cage within the courtroom, she spoke to ABC News and wished wife Cherelle, who graduated from law school in May, good luck on the bar exam.

Griner told ABC News that she is "waiting patiently" while in custody but has "no complaints." During the hearing, she held up a sign that included a photograph of her and Cherelle.

July 27, 2022: Brittney Griner Speaks in Court

In another hearing, the WNBA star told the court that Russian officials did not read any rights to her when she was arrested at the Moscow airport for possession of cannabis oil in February, according to The Washington Post.

While Griner said a translator at the airport told her where to go, nobody explained to her what was happening, and she described the general translation services offered to her during her months-long detainment in Russia as "inadequate."

"I remember one time there was a stack of papers that [the translator] needed to translate for me. He took a brief look and then said the exact words were, 'Basically you are guilty,' " Griner testified.

During her testimony, the WNBA star told the court via a translator that she was aware she was not allowed to bring cannabis oil into the country and said she still does not "understand how they ended up in her bag."

"I had no intention to break the law," she said, adding that she was stressed and rushed while packing and was recovering from a then-recent COVID-19 diagnosis that required her to take a test before getting on a plane.

Griner also testified that upon her arrest, she did not receive access to a lawyer and was made to sign documents without being told what they meant, according to the Associated Press. Griner said that during a Feb. 19 hearing regarding her arrest, she received only a "cursory translation" of the allegations made against her, according to the AP.

Brittney Griner, Joe Biden
Brittney Griner, Joe Biden

Tim Clayton/Corbis/Getty; Ting Shen/Bloomberg/Getty

July 27, 2022: The Biden Administration Offers a 'Substantial' Deal to Russia in Exchange for Brittney Griner

Later on July 27, news broke that the Biden administration offered a "substantial" deal to Russia to secure the release of Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, another American prisoner, per Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Citing sources, CNN also reported that the White House offered to exchange Griner and Whelan for a Russian prisoner in the United States, Viktor Bout, who was convicted for arms trafficking and is currently serving 25 years.

Sources told CNN that this plan to swap prisoners was backed by President Joe Biden after being under discussion earlier in the year. With Biden's support, the plan overrides the Department of Justice, which holds a firm stance against prisoner trades.

Blinken said that the White House had been in negotiations with Russia on the potential exchange for weeks, and that he intended to discuss the matter further on a call with the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the coming days.

Aug. 4, 2022: Brittney Griner Is Sentenced to 9 Years in Prison

As her trial ended, Griner was sentenced to 9 years in a Russian prison, on charges of smuggling drugs into the country.

Griner's lawyers said the verdict, just below the maximum sentence of 10 years, "absolutely unreasonable" and said they will "certainly file an appeal," The New York Times reported.

A Russian judge read Griner, 31, her verdict Thursday about an hour after her lawyers and the prosecution presented their closing arguments. The Phoenix Mercury star had given an emotional speech, reiterating her stance that though she pled guilty to bringing less than 1 gram of cannabis oil into Russia, she did so "inadvertently" and asked the court for leniency.

"That's why I pled guilty to my charges. I understand everything that's been said against me, the charges that are against me and that is why I pled guilty but I had no intents to break any Russian laws," Griner said, according to CNN.

In a statement shared with PEOPLE, President Joe Biden said the ruling was "unacceptable."