Brittney Griner Pleads Guilty To Drug Charges

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Brittney Griner has been in a Russian prison since Feb 2022.

As her trial in a Russian court resumed on Thursday, Brittney Griner entered a guilty plea to narcotics charges, acknowledging that she had brought cannabis into the country, but maintaining that she had packed in a hurry and had not intended to breach the law.

As a member of the Phoenix Mercury and an Olympic medallist, she faces up to 10 years in jail if found guilty.

Brittney Griner made her second court appearance since her trial officially began last Friday. Her attorney has estimated that the trial might take up to two months, with many sessions for the prosecution before the defense has its turn. The judge had already ordered her detention for the duration of the trial. The next court date is next Thursday.

Authorities at Sheremetyevo International Airport reportedly found cannabis vape cartridges in Griner’s luggage on February 17, a week before Russia started its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. As many WNBA players do to augment their wages, she was going there to play for a Russian club during the U.S. summer.

Brittney Griner

The prosecution claims that before leaving on her vacation, Griner bought two cartridges of hash oil weighing 0.252 grams and 0.45 grams for her own use. Two customs agents who were working at the airport when Griner’s baggage was scrutinized testified at a hearing last week.

The Biden administration, which deemed Griner illegally held in May, thinks that the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered her imprisonment in order to use her as leverage, while the Kremlin says the issue is not politically motivated.

The public pressure on the Biden administration to achieve Griner’s release has increased since Griner herself submitted a handwritten letter to the White House on July 4th pleading for assistance.

After receiving criticism for not speaking to Griner’s wife earlier, the White House said on Wednesday that the president had talked to Cherelle and given her a draft of a letter he intended to deliver to her that day. This document restated the need of releasing Griner and other American captives.

Brittney Griner

U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Elizabeth Rood informed reporters that she had given Biden’s letter to Griner after Thursday’s events. Within the confines of the courtroom, she was reunited with Griner.

Russian officials have said emphatically that no prisoner exchanges will occur before a verdict has been announced.

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