Brittney Griner could spend 5 years in Russian labor camp, expert says

Griner has not been seen since she was arrested in Russia last month

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U.S. Olympic gold medalist and WNBA champion Brittney Griner could face up to five years in a Russian labor camp after she was arrested in the country last month, an expert said.

Griner, a 31-year-old Phoenix Mercury basketball star, has not been seen since she was arrested in Russia last month after Russian officials allegedly found vape cartridges in her luggage and accused her of attempting to smuggle drugs into the country.

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Russian law expert Peter Maggs of the University of Illinois College of Law predicted that her pending legal case could result in a 5- to 10-year prison sentence, which could also include time spent at a labor camp, or a complete dismissal and exportation from the country.

"You're talking about five years, not jail time, but a labor camp," he said. "One thing I find a little worrisome is this extension of her preliminary holding from two months to three months, because you have to go to a higher authority to get it lengthened."

Brittney Griner #15 of Team United States reacts during the first half of the Women's Basketball final game between Team United States and Team Japan on day sixteen of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games at Saitama Super Arena on August 08, 2021, in Saitama, Japan.

Brittney Griner #15 of Team United States reacts during the first half of the Women's Basketball final game between Team United States and Team Japan on day sixteen of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games at Saitama Super Arena on August 08, 2021, in Saitama, Japan. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

"It is illegal to bring all sorts of drugs into the country [Russia], including cannabis oil," Maggs said.

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The law professor also speculated that Griner could be completely innocent of the accusations against her as Russian authorities are known to plant drugs on people to arrest them under false pretenses "if the regime wanted to get them in trouble."

Brittney Griner is pictured.

Brittney Griner is pictured. (Russian State TV)

"We don’t know what really happened," he added.

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The WNBA released a statement that called the international arrest "extremely difficult" but added they were working closely with the U.S. government to get Griner returned safely.  

FILE - Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner (42) looks to pass as Chicago Sky center Candace Parker defends during the first half of game 1 of the WNBA basketball Finals, Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, in Phoenix.

FILE - Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner (42) looks to pass as Chicago Sky center Candace Parker defends during the first half of game 1 of the WNBA basketball Finals, Sunday, Oct. 10, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso, File)

"This continues to be a complex situation that is extremely difficult for Brittney, her family, and all who are hoping for a swift resolution," the statement said, according to Reuters. "Our number one priority remains her safe return."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.