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Griner pleads guilty to drugs charges in Russian court

WNBA star Brittney Griner has pleaded guilty to drug smuggling charges in a Russian court, stating she had “unintentionally” packed cannabis oil in her luggage for a trip to Moscow.

July 7, 2022
By Reuters
7 July 2022

US basketball player Brittney Griner has pleaded guilty in a Russian court on Thursday to drugs charges that could see her face 10 years in prison.

Griner’s family have called on President Joe Biden to step up efforts to secure the WNBA star’s release.

Griner’s guilty plea has not lessened the support the two-time Olympic gold medalist continues to receive from her WNBA peers.

The Phoenix Mercury All-Star pleaded guilty on the second day of her trial. The chance of Griner being convicted were considered extremely high before her plea.

“The WNBPA stands with Brittney Griner. With a 99% conviction rate, Russia’s process is its own. You can’t navigate it or even understand it like our own legal system,” WNBAPA executive director Terri Jackson said in a statement. “What we do know is that the US State Department determined that Brittney Griner was wrongfully detained for a reason and we’ll leave it at that.”

Speaking through an interpreter, Griner told the court that she had no intention of committing a crime and had acted unintentionally because she had packed for Moscow in a hurry. The trial was then adjourned until July 14.

Griner emphasized “that she had committed this act through negligence, unintentionally”, her lawyer, Maria Blagovolina, told reporters outside the court near Moscow following the guilty plea.

Griner, 31, was detained at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport while returning to play basketball in Russia and police said they found vape canisters containing cannabis oil in her luggage.

The plea came a day after President Biden had a phone conversation with Griner’s wife Cherelle during which he told her that he is working to free the Mercury star as soon as possible.

PHOENIX, ARIZONA – JULY 06: Cherelle Griner, the wife of Brittney Griner, speaks during a rally to support the release of detained American professional athlete Britney Griner at Footprint Center on July 06, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

It also came after Griner’s WNBA team held a public rally in support of the 6-foot-9 center with several hundred fans in attendance. The rally at the Footprint Center, home of the Phoenix Mercury and Suns, was part celebration of Griner’s accomplishments on and off the court with a call to action.

“One hundred thirty-nine days have passed since my wife has been able to speak to me, to our family and our friends,” Cherelle Griner said during the rally, stopping to compose herself several times. “I’m frustrated my wife is not going to get justice. I know you all are frustrated, too. That’s why you’re here.”

With AP

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