The Advocate July/Aug 2022
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Brittney Griner Pleads Guilty to Drug Charges in Russian Courtroom

Brittney Griner in a Russian Court

WNBA star Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges in a Russian court Thursday. She faces up to 10 years in a penal colony over the offenses.

She told the court that she had not purposefully broken Russian law, according to Reuters who had a journalist in the courtroom.

“I’d like to plead guilty, your honor. But there was no intent. I didn't want to break the law," Griner said. 

“I’d like to give my testimony later,” Griner continued. “I need time to prepare.”

Her next court appearance is July 14.

Griner’s guilty plea followed only hours after a Russian diplomat blasted the Biden administration for attempting to “torment hype” around the case, The New York Times reports. The official, Sergei Ryabkov, said the publicity wasn’t helping Griner’s case.

Ryabkov, the deputy foreign minister, said that the Russian government would be willing to negotiate around the case when a verdict was reached. He said that until the end of the trial, “there are no formal procedurals grounds” to talk about the next steps.

He added that Griner could be helped through “a serious reading by the American side of the signals that they received from Russia, from Moscow, through specialized channels,” the Times reports. Those signals were not specified.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke with Brittney Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, Wednesday and assured her they are working on the basketball star’s release.

Biden also read Cherelle Griner a draft of a letter he has written to Brittney Griner, who has been jailed in Russia since February. The Phoenix Mercury center was arrested at an airport in the nation, where she was planning to play for a Russian team during the WNBA off-season, on charges that she possessed vape cartridges containing hashish oil, considered an illegal substance in Russia. Her trial began last week. The U.S. government has said she is “wrongfully detained.”

Griner sent a letter to Biden, which arrived Monday, saying, “I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other American Detainees. Please do all you can to bring us home. I voted for the first time in 2020 and I voted for you. I believe in you. I still have so much good to do with my freedom that you can help restore.”

Biden called Cherelle Griner “to reassure her that he is working to secure Brittney’s release as soon as possible, as well as the release of Paul Whelan and other U.S. nationals who are wrongfully detained or held hostage in Russia and around the world,” said a White House press release. Whelan is detained in Russia on espionage charges.

This is a developing story…

 

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