Britney Griner shared her personal story while testifying in a Russian court on Thursday in a case that faces up to 10 years in prison. Her legal team called for leniency in the case, arguing that she contributed to Russian society and had no intention of breaking the law.
“I grew up in an ordinary house, in an ordinary family in Houston, Texas, with my brothers and sisters, mom and dad,” Griner, 31, told the court. “My parents taught me two important things: firstly, to take responsibility for your duties, and secondly, to work hard on everything you have. That is why I pleaded guilty to my charges.”
“I understand everything that was said against me in the charges brought against me, but I had no intention of violating Russian law,” the lady added. Griner, who was detained in mid-February at a Moscow airport on her way to Yekaterinburg, a Russian city near the Ural Mountains, where she played for a local team during the WNBA offseason.
Customs officials found two e-cigarette cartridges containing less than one gram of hash oil in her luggage.
“I want the court to understand that this was an honest mistake that I made when I was in a rush and stressed out trying to recover from the coronavirus and just trying to get back on my team,” she told the court on Thursday.
Mrs. Griner also spoke about her time at the Yekaterinburg UMMC.
“The industriousness that my parents instilled in me led me to play for the best team in Russia,” she said. “I had no idea that the team, the city, the fans and my teammates would make such a strong impression on me during the six and a half years I spent in Yekaterinburg. It has become my second home with my friends, teammates and fans that I have always interacted with.”
The basketball star has apologized to his teammates on the Russian national team and the city of Yekaterinburg, his family and other WNBA players, including his team from Arizona, the Phoenix Mercury.
Addressing the judge in the case, Sotnikova Anna Sergeevna, Mr. Griner said: “I made an honest mistake, and I hope that in your decision my life will not end here.”
She also mentioned the possibility of a prisoner exchange that would allow her to return to the United States, an issue that was negotiated between Moscow and Washington, with pressure on President Biden to help secure her release.
“I know everyone keeps talking about political pawn and politics, but I hope this is far from the same courtroom,” Griner said.