Britney Griner pleads guilty to drug possession in Russian court

Griner, who has been classified by the US State Department as wrongfully detained, faces up to 10 years in prison on the charge. Phoenix Mercury Player Supporters called for her release due to fears that she is being used as a political pawn against the backdrop of Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Griner’s lawyers expect the court to take note of the 31-year-old athlete’s guilty plea and hope for leniency, Alexander Boikov and Maria Blagovolina told reporters on Thursday.

“Given all the circumstances of the case, taking into account the personality of our client, we believe that the admission of guilt should be taken into account,” Blagovolina said, adding that Griner is “a role model for many.”

No traces of drugs were found in the samples taken from Griner, Boikov added. “She was clean and they checked her,” the lawyer said.

On Thursday, Griner left the courtroom without commenting to reporters. Her next hearing is scheduled for July 14.

Griner was arrested in February at a Moscow airport after Russian officials said they found cannabis oil in her luggage. The basketball star, who plays in Russia during the WNBA off-season, has since been in custody on charges of drug smuggling. Her test started last week.

On Thursday, Griner told the court that she had no intention of committing the crime, the state news agency RIA Novosti reported. The report says Griner did not intend to carry the drugs in her luggage, she said through an interpreter, and it was because she was packing in a hurry.

It has been 130 days since WNBA star Britney Griner was detained in Russia and her trial is about to begin.  Her wife wants US authorities to do more to bring her home

According to a source close to her, only Griner made the decision to plead guilty. But in recent weeks, Griner, her family, lawyers and experts have been actively discussing the decision. With 99% of reported convictions in criminal cases in Russia, Griner was urged to weigh all factors, including a guilty plea, which could ultimately lead to a reduced sentence.

Some speculate that Griner could be released and returned to the US in exchange for prisoners, as could Trevor Reid, an American veteran held in Russia for three years. until his release in April.

In Griner’s case, there is no indication that such an exchange is imminent.

However, prior to any potential prisoner swap, Griner was expected to be convicted and plead guilty, a senior US official told CNN. According to the official, Reed had to sign a document stating his guilt — something he resisted for almost the entire duration of his detention — just days before he was released.

“This is part of the show and the document has no legal force or effect in the US. It’s virtually meaningless,” Reid family spokesman Jonathan Franks said.

Griner’s statement came on the second day of the trial, at which prosecutor accused her smuggling less than a gram of cannabis oil in her luggage. Prosecutors allege that Griner intended to smuggle drugs into Russia and put banned substances in a backpack and suitcase, according to TASS, another state news agency.

Counsel says Griner praised Biden’s letter

At Thursday’s hearing, a senior U.S. diplomat handed Greener a letter that U.S. President Joe Biden had written to her in response to her July 4 letter in which she begged Biden for help. The US Embassy in Moscow handed over Biden’s letter to Griner during her trial, US Chargé d’Affaires Elizabeth Rude said Thursday.

Griner praised Biden’s letter “as every citizen of any country would appreciate a personal letter from the president,” Boikov said.

On Wednesday, the White House announced that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were on the phone with Griner’s wife. Sherel Griner was “thankful” for the call, she said in a statement Wednesday.

Biden and Harris talking to wife Brittney Griner

“While I will be concerned and frank until (Britney Griner) returns home, I hope the president read my wife’s letter and took the time to respond,” she said. “I know that BG can find comfort in the fact that she is not forgotten.”

In the meantime, the US government should “keep doing what they’re doing and exhaust all possible measures to help bring BG home,” Greener Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard told CNN Thursday after her request.

While the focus should be on getting Griner home safely, Nygaard also cited a perceived double standard in the “lack of coverage and value in women’s sports”.

“The question is, will Tom Brady be home?” the coach said. “But Tom Brady wouldn’t be there because he doesn’t have to travel to another country to supplement his WNBA income.”

Wednesday’s rally in support of Greener, organized by Mercury and the US Representative’s office. Arizona’s Greg Stanton was “really, really great,” Nygaard said, adding that she remains concerned about Griner’s safety in Russia.

“In her letter (to Biden), she said she was afraid,” the coach said. “This is not just an ordinary American in another country, this is a person who represents our country well. Her home. “

Kylie Atwood of CNN contributed to this report.