Brittney Griner pleads guilty to drug charges in Russia

  • by Michael K. Lavers, Washington Blade
  • Thursday July 7, 2022
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WNBA star Brittney Griner. Photo: Bigstock photo
WNBA star Brittney Griner. Photo: Bigstock photo

WNBA star Brittney Griner on Thursday pleaded guilty to charges that she smuggled drugs into Russia.

"I'd like to plead guilty, your honor, but there was no intent," Griner told a Moscow judge during the second hearing in her trial that began last week, according to the New York Times. "I didn't want to break the law."

Officials at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport in February detained Griner — a Phoenix Mercury center and two-time Olympic gold medalist who is a lesbian and married to her wife, Cherelle Griner — after customs inspectors allegedly found hashish oil in her luggage. The State Department has determined that Russia "wrongfully detained" her.

Brittney Griner on July 4 pleaded directly to President Joe Biden to help secure her release. In the letter, excerpts of which were released by her agents, she wrote, "I'm terrified I might be here forever," and asked Biden to do "whatever you can do at this moment to get me home."

The White House on July 5 received a letter signed by 1,200 Black women who urge the administration to bring Brittney Griner back to the U.S.

"The letter is support — support from a group of Black women who are trying to save another Black woman. It's as simple as that," Dawn Staley, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and head basketball coach at the University of South Carolina, told the Washington Post. "I think about Brittney throughout the entire day, every day. I try to put myself in her shoes, and I'd want somebody fighting for me — people who won't shut up."

The Reverend Al Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network, on Tuesday also asked Biden to arrange a "prayer visit" for Brittney Griner.

Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday spoke with Cherelle Griner.

The White House in a statement said Biden read Cherelle Griner his response to her wife's letter. U.S. Chargé d'Affaires Elizabeth Rood on Thursday told reporters outside court that she delivered the letter to Brittney Griner.

Brittney Griner faces up to 10 years in prison.

Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Thursday said his government would only negotiate Brittney Griner's potential release with the U.S. once the court issues its verdict.

Caris White contributed to this story.

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