Brittney Griner pleads guilty to drug possession and smuggling charges in Russia and faces 10 years in prison

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WNBA star Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to drug possession and smuggling in Russia on Thursday, saying in a Moscow court she accidentally brought marijuana into the country.

grinner got arrested at a Moscow airport in February after Russian officials claimed she had cannabis oil in her luggage. A Russian judge ordered Phoenix Mercury center Griner, who played in Russia during the WNBA off-season, to remain in custody.

“I would like to plead guilty to the charges against me, but I had no intention of breaking any Russian law,” she told the court. “I was in a hurry to pack and the cartridges accidentally ended up in my pockets.”

Court proceedings against US basketball player Brittney Griner in Khimki
U.S. basketball player Brittney Griner is escorted to a court hearing in Khimki, near Moscow, Russia, July 7, 2022.

EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA / REUTERS


Griner’s Russian legal team said the guilty plea was “her decision, made through discussions with her legal defense team.”

“Brittney is an example of being brave,” the attorneys said in a statement. “She has chosen to take full responsibility for her actions, knowing that she is a role model for many people.”

“Given the nature of their case, the insignificant amount of BG’s substance and personality, and history of positive contributions to global and Russian sport, the defense hopes the lawsuit will be considered by the court as a mitigating circumstance and that there will be no cumulative verdict.” ‘ the lawyers added.

At Thursday’s hearing, another witness was questioned before Griner pleaded guilty. The WNBA player is expected to make her statement at a later date and has asked for time to prepare. The session was adjourned until July 14.

If convicted of drug smuggling, Griner faces ten years in a Russian prison.

Griner’s plea could bring the verdict in her case closer, which would then allow her defense team and US officials to institute proceedings to secure her release.

Russian media had speculated that Griner could be part of a prisoner swap similar to the one the US and Russia agreed to earlier this spring. Replacement of former Marine Trevor Reed with pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who was jailed years ago for drug smuggling.

A senior Russian diplomat signaled earlier Thursday that Moscow was ready to negotiate Griner’s fate, but only after the court rendered its verdict. Deputy Secretary of State Sergei Ryabkov also criticized US attempts to “foment hype around Griner’s case” after the US government deemed her “wrongly detained” and assigned a “hostage envoy” to work on her case.

“We have a long-established form of discussing these issues, and the attempts by the American side to create hype and make noise in public, we realize they do not help to solve the problem in practical terms,” ​​Ryabkov said . according to the TASS news agency.

in one handwritten letter from Griner delivered to the White House on Monday, the WNBA player wrote how terrified she was of being locked up in Russia “forever”.

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke to Griner’s wife, Cherelle On Wednesday. The White House said he was “trying to reassure her that he is working to secure Brittney’s release as soon as possible, as well as the release of Paul Whelan and other US citizens wronged in Russia and around the world.” be arrested or held hostage”.



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