Brittney Griner pleaded guilty in Russia, but experts warn next steps could have serious consequences

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Britney Griner pleaded guilty to drug smuggling on Thursday after months in a Russian prison — and now, experts say, her release in a potential prison swap could be a complicated process with serious consequences.

At the time of her appearance in court, Griner claimed that her “intention” was do not violate the laws of the Russian Federation. She could face up to 10 years in prison.

“I would like to plead guilty, Your Honor. But there was no intention. I didn’t want to break the law,” she said, adding that she would give her testimony later.

The verdict in her case has not yet been issued, but there is talk of a prisoner exchange for Griner, who the State Department says illegally detainedhave been the focus of conversations as her trial continues.

Britney Griner arrives for a hearing at the Khimki court in the Moscow region on Thursday.

Britney Griner arrives for a hearing at the Khimki court in the Moscow region on Thursday.
(KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

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Hugh Dugan, an American academic and longtime diplomat who served as the president’s special envoy for hostage affairs during the Trump administration, told Fox News Digital that Griner’s admission of guilt makes her release even more difficult because it gives the Russian government more bargaining chips.

“This brings her closer to being identified as a convict with the probability of justification is less than 1%. There would be more wiggle room if she didn’t get to this point, I think, and let the system play for time and not be classified as such. But this, in my opinion, can make it a more valuable resource for Russia, because now they can say that we have a legitimate criminal under their law, and we must be faithful to our system, etc., ”Dugan explained .

Britney Griner is a two-time Olympian and WNBA champion.

Britney Griner is a two-time Olympian and WNBA champion.
(KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

One possible name is Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer known as “Death Dealer” who is serving a 25-year sentence in the US after being convicted of conspiring to kill US citizens and aiding a terrorist organization.

Dugan explained that this scenario would not be considered “proportionate” based on the allegations on a case-by-case basis.

Alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout walks past temporary cells before a hearing at the Bangkok Criminal Court August 20, 2010.

Alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout walks past temporary cells before a hearing at the Bangkok Criminal Court August 20, 2010.
(CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBO/AFP via Getty Images, file)

“When we exchange something like this with a hardened terrorist, the proportionality is not the same. And it’s always a big problem in negotiations that we don’t devalue our identity to the point where the same country takes over another the next day. about our tourists and another American walking around innocently to use against some major foreign policy asset we own out of their assets.”

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This view was echoed by Tom Schwartz, eminent professor of history at Vanderbilt University, who called prison exchange in the case of high stakes, like this one, the slippery slope.

“This type of prisoner exchange is a slippery slope that opens up the possibility for other abductions of Americans in other countries and attempts by other countries to achieve the release of prisoners in this way,” he told Fox News Digital.

This was stated by Fox News correspondent Dan Hoffman, former head of the CIA station. “Fox News Rundown” a podcast that the practice of exchanging prisoners in such cases is not a new Kremlin strategy.

“The United States has historically been forced to make these kinds of Faustian deals with the Soviets or, in this case, KGB operative in the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin (center) at the Victory military parade marking the 77th anniversary of the end of World War II in Moscow May 9.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (center) at the Victory military parade marking the 77th anniversary of the end of World War II in Moscow May 9.
(Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin pool, photo via AP, file)

Following news of Griner’s statement on Thursday, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov criticized the US government for its portrayal of the WNBA star’s case and the “hype” surrounding her detention.

“We have a long-standing framework for discussing such issues. The attempts of the American side to inflate the hype in the public arena, make a fuss about this topic are very understandable, and they do not contribute to the practical solution of issues.

Schwartz said Ryabkov’s comment indicated that the Kremlin is well aware of the urgency of Griner’s release.

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“He positions it and makes it clear that Russia now, one might say, recognizes the value of Britney Griner. he escalates the pressure on the president to do something quickly to try and secure her release as the excitement shows no signs of calming down. In that sense, the scope for quiet diplomacy in this particular case seems to have faded into the background.”

WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner arrives for a hearing at Khimki Court July 1.

WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner arrives for a hearing at Khimki Court July 1.
(KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia said on Wednesday that Griner would have the option to appeal or seek pardon after sentencing, but the real likelihood of that, though not certain, is grim.

“The Russian judiciary might be pleased to give her a little less and give credit for her leniency, but I don’t think it’s about her release,” Schwartz said. Judging Vladimir Putin turned out to be a very misguided passion on the part of Western analysts who thought he would not invade [Ukraine], thought he wouldn’t do it, and he does these things. So he can surprise us again.”

Resolving this case is likely to be a long and complicated process, Rebecca Koffler, a Russian-born former U.S. intelligence officer and expert on Russia and Vladimir Putin, told Fox News Digital.

The Putin government has probably already sent its demands to Washington, either through official channels or behind the scenes. But these cases are usually very difficult to resolve because of the two legal systems… The American side does not consider the arrest of Ms. Griner legal, though “She was found to be in possession of an illegal substance. The Russians are insisting that the arrest is legal and they want the US to acknowledge it. So it will be a semantic battle, in a sense reflecting the confrontation between Russia and the US over control of Ukraine.”

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Brittney Griner (42) at the WNBA playoffs in September.  September 26, 2021 in Everett, Washington.

Brittney Griner (42) at the WNBA playoffs in September. September 26, 2021 in Everett, Washington.
(AP Photo / Elaine Thompson, file)

Ryabkov’s comments on Thursday only exacerbate the battle that lies ahead.

“The tenacity with which the US administration and representatives of the relevant [government] structures in Washington call those who are convicted by us on serious charges and are waiting for the appropriate verdicts, [as] “detainees” is a reflection of Washington’s unwillingness to adequately perceive the world.”