Brittney Griner Pleads Guilty to Drug Charges in Russia

Brittney Griner appears in court in Russia on June 27, 2022. (Credit: YouTube/WFAA)

WNBA star Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to drug possession and smuggling charges on Thursday in a Russian court, according to reports from Reuters and the Associated Press.

“I’d like to plead guilty, your honor. But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law,” Griner said in English, which an interpreter then translated to Russian. “I’d like to give my testimony later. I need time to prepare.”

Griner, 31, told the court she did not intend to put drugs in her luggage, but was packing in a hurry. She faces up to 10 years in prison.

Related Story: LeBron James Urges Biden Administration to Bring Brittney Griner Home

The two-time Olympic gold medalist was detained at Moscow Airport on Feb. 17, after Russian officials said vape cartridges with hashish oil were found inside her luggage. She had traveled to Russia to play in the off-season and make extra money.

Griner has been the focus on international media coverage since she was taken into custody.

Earlier this week, she sent a letter to President Joe Biden pleading for him to help get her out of Russia.

“I’m terrified I might be here forever,” Griner wrote in the July 4th letter.

“I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other American detainees. Please do all you can to bring us home,” she added. “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.”

The White House issued a statement on Wednesday saying Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris had spoken by phone to the Phoenix Mercury player’s wife, Cherelle Griner. The statement also mentioned Paul Whelan, a U.S. citizen and former Marine, who has been imprisoned in Russia since 2018 on espionage charges.

“The President called Cherelle 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 U.S. nationals who are wrongfully detained or held hostage in Russia and around the world,” the statement said.

In May, the U.S. government said Griner had been “wrongfully detained” by Russian authorities.

Activists believe the American is being used as a political pawn by Russia as it faces global condemnation for its invasion of Ukraine.

Griner’s next court hearing in Russia is scheduled for July 14.

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