Athlete and WNBA star Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine and a half years in prison for drug charges by a Russian court on Thursday, as the United States continues their attempts to make a deal with Russian authorities for Griner’s release. 

The Russian court brought down the sentence as well as a fine of 1 million rubles (US$16,301) to Griner, whom the court decided had criminal intent in bringing the cannabis canisters in her suitcase when she went to Russia, according to CNBC

“I never meant to hurt anybody,” Griner said as she asked the court for leniency in her sentencing. “I never meant to put in jeopardy the Russian population. I never meant to break any laws here.”

Marina Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov said that they plan to file an appeal for the case, as U.S. President Joe Biden released a statement calling for Griner’s release as well as Paul Whelan, who was arrested and charged with being a spy by Russia in 2018, ABC News reported.

“She's very upset. Very upset, very stressed,” Blagovolina said. “She can hardly talk, honestly, so it's difficult time for her.” 

“It’s unacceptable, and I call on Russia to release her immediately so she can be with her wife, loved ones, friends, and teammates,” Biden said. “My administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible.”

Biden’s administration, through Secretary of State Antony Blinken, has offered a deal to Russia of a potential exchange for Griner and Whelan, though the details of the deal are unclear. Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov are attempting to schedule a discussion on the matter in the future. 

“We’ve made a proposal, and we urge the Russians to move positively on that proposal so we can get these two individuals home,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said.

Many Americans in support of Griner have expressed sadness and anger at the new prison sentence, with WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver calling it “unjustified and unfortunate” while calling for her safe return in a joint statement between the two.

“The WNBA and NBA's commitment to her safe return has not wavered and it is our hope that we are near the end of this process of finally bringing BG home to the United States,” the statement said.

hasan-almasi-aIRBGPafi74-unsplash WNBA basketball star Brittney Griner has been sentenced to nine-and-a-half years in prison after she accidentally smuggled cannabis canisters into Russia, with many in America erupting in anger at the verdict. This is a representational image. Hasan Almasi/Unsplash.