Britney Griner pleads guilty to drug possession in Russian court

Britney Griner pleaded guilty to drug possession in a Russian courtroom on Thursday as debate over the American basketball star’s fate increasingly moved into the diplomatic arena – a chilling prospect for Ms. Ukraine.

Appearing before a judge outside the Russian capital on the second day of her trial, Ms Griner said she had inadvertently smuggled a banned substance into the country because she packed in a hurry. Russian authorities say they found e-cigarette cartridges containing 0.7 grams of cannabis oil in her luggage when Ms. S. Griner arrived in February to play basketball, and she was detained since then, he faces 10 years in prison in a strict regime colony.

“I would like to plead guilty, Your Honor. But there was no intention. I didn’t want to break the law,” said the lady. Griner spoke in English, which was then translated into Russian, according to a Reuters reporter in the courtroom.

RS. Griner told the court she would tell more the next day of the July 14 trial. She faces charges of illegal possession of drugs and smuggling “significant amounts.”

By pleading guilty, Mr. Griner has potentially hastened the conclusion of her case, clearing the way for either a deal with the United States or perhaps a plea for clemency.

With a guilty verdict and a near-foregone conclusion in the Russian legal system that largely supports the prosecution, experts say her best hope is that the Biden administration will secure her freedom by freeing a Russian hero in the United States. In particular, the name of one prisoner surfaced: Victor BoutRussian arms dealer serving a 25-year prison sentence.

But any such talks can only take place after the formalities of Griner’s trial are completed, Russian officials say.

“Obviously, we have not completed the necessary legal procedures,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei A. Ryabkov told Russian news agencies on Thursday, when asked about a possible exchange. “Until this happens, there is no nominal, formal or procedural basis for any further steps.”

US officials insist they are doing everything they can to secure the release of the lady. Griner, 31, is a seven-time WNBA All-Star, two-time Olympian and the first openly gay athlete to sign with Nike. At Thursday’s hearing, Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Moscow, Elizabeth Rude, handed Ms. J. Griner a letter from President Biden.

“RS. Griner was able to read this letter,” Ms. Red told reporters outside the courtroom. “I would like to reiterate the commitment of the U.S. government at the highest level to the safe return home of Ms. K. Griner and all illegally detained U.S. citizens “.

But because tensions between the United States and Russia have reached their highest level in decades due to President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Biden has few options to secure her freedom. This was emphasized by Mr. Ryabkov on Thursday, when he made one of the most extensive comments of any Russian official about the madam. Griner’s case for the almost five months she spent in custody.

“The hype and PR, with all the love for this genre of modern politicians, in this particular case only get in the way,” he said. Ryabkov said. “This is not just a distraction from the case, but creates interference in the truest sense of the word. That’s why silence is needed here.”

However, he hinted that Moscow is interested in negotiations about the lady. Griner, stating that “a serious reading by the American side of the signals that they received from Russia, from Moscow, through specialized channels” will help her.

mr. Ryabkov did not elaborate on what those signals were, though Russian state media suggested the Kremlin might be interested in trading the American athlete for Mr. Putin. Booth, 55, is a former Soviet military man who made his fortune trading arms around the world before being caught in a federal sting operation.

No deal, ma’am. Griner could face years in prison.

Arseniy Levinson, Russian lawyer involved in cases like Ms. Levinson’s. Griner said her case was “absurd” because she clearly had no criminal intent. But while her prosecution is politically motivated, it is in many ways typical of Russia, where the law enforcement system often “imitates the fight against drug smuggling,” Mr. Levinson said.

In most cases, Mr. Levinson said that Russian courts would issue suspended sentences to persons accused of killing Ms. Levinson. Griner’s crime. But its outlook may be bleaker, he said, because suspended sentences against non-citizens are harder to enforce.

“As a rule, foreigners receive much harsher sentences than Russians,” he said. Levinson, who works for a non-profit organization that helps drug suspects.

Even if the United States and Russia agree on an exchange to deliver the mistress. Griner home, a deal like this could take years to materialize. In April at exchange of prisoners more than two years after the arrest.

Former Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, a former ambassador to the United Nations who worked for years to free the hostages through his non-profit organization, was involved in several months of quiet but intense diplomacy to free Mr. Richards. Reed. mr. Richardson is currently working on Ms. The case of Griner, as well as former Marine Paul Whelan, who has been in Russian custody since 2018.

Mickey Bergman, executive director of the Richardson Center for Global Engagement, said in an email that Ms. Greener’s plea was understandable. “We believe that any prisoner in a situation like this should do what they think will help them get through this ordeal,” he said. Bergman said in an email. “She’s fighting for her life.”

RS. Rude, a US diplomat who attended Thursday’s court hearing, told Ms. Griner told her that “she eats well, knows how to read books.”

“She’s doing well under the circumstances,” Rude said.

RS. Griner’s lawyer Alexander Boikov said in a comment via the messaging app that his client told the court on Thursday that she was “inadvertently transporting substances banned in Russia.”

“She packed in a hurry,” he said in a phone interview. “The bullets ended up in her luggage due to carelessness.”

After her trial started last week, RS. Griner sent a handwritten letter Mr. Biden asks him not to “forget” about her and other American prisoners abroad.

Wednesday, Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke to Mrs Griner’s wifeSherel Griner, according to the statement released by the White House. The statement said that during the call, the president read out a draft of a letter he planned to send to Britney Greener. He also said that his administration is using “every opportunity to bring Britney home.”

Cherell Griner was publicly expressed dissatisfaction with G. Biden and his administration’s efforts to free her wife.

In a statement Wednesday, Cherell Griner said she was grateful to Mr Jones. Biden and Mr. Harris “for the time they spent with me and for their expressed commitment to bring BG home.”

The United States government has classified Britney Griner as “illegally detained“And he said it would work to secure her release regardless of the outcome of the trial.

On Wednesday, Britney Griner’s WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury, held a rally in her support.

“What and how I feel today is a deeper emotion than pain,” Sherel Griner said at the rally. “I’m disappointed. I’m upset that it’s been 140 days since my wife was able to talk to me, to our family, to our friends. I’m upset that my wife won’t get justice. I know you all will too frustrated, that’s why you’re here.”

Cherell Greener asked people at the rally, several hundred fans according to the Associated Press, to help make sure the Biden administration knows “they have our backing to do whatever it takes” to get her wife home.

Communication Britney Griner with family and friends in the United States was limited to letters. Recently, one of her Mercury teammates, forward Brianna Turner, wrote to her, reminiscing about their time together. “One of my favorite moments was not even on the court. Turner said. “We went to Indiana, rented Lime scooters and just rode downtown.”

RS. Turner also told her teammate that she would be an honorary All-Star this season. Because miss. Griner has been in custody since February and has not played in the WNBA this season.

“BG also has a great sense of humor – she told me that she would probably have the worst stat tree and not be in the game,” said Ms. Turner said laughing.

Then she became serious again: “We need to bring her home. She deserves to come home. She needs to get back to her family and her friends.”