Brittney Griner pleads guilty to Russian drug charges, ‘there was no intent’

Embed from Getty Images
Last week, WNBA star Brittney Griner’s trial for cannabis possession began in Moscow. She didn’t speak during the first hearing, except to say that she understood the charges that were brought against her. At some point, she wrote a letter to the White House that was also released last week, and on Wednesday her friends and family held a “Bring BG Home” rally at the Phoenix Mercury arena. On Thursday, Brittney spoke in Russian court, pleading guilty to the drug charges, but said “there was no intent” and requested to give her testimony later.

U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to a drugs charge in a Russian court on Thursday but denied she had intentionally broken the law.

“I’d like to plead guilty, your honour. But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law,” Griner said, speaking quietly in English which was then translated into Russian for the court.

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

Griner’s lawyers told reporters they were hoping for the most lenient sentencing possible, taking into account “the nature of her case, the insignificant amount of the substance and BG’s personality and history of positive contributions to global and Russian sport.”

“We, as her defense, explained to her the possible consequences. Brittney stressed that she committed the crime out of carelessness, getting ready to board a plane to Russia in a hurry, not intending to break Russian law,” said Griner’s attorney, Maria Blagovolina, a partner at Rybalkin, Gortsunyan, Dyakin and Partners law firm.

“We certainly hope this circumstance, in combination with the defence evidence, will be taken into account when passing the sentence, and it will be mild.”

Griner’s legal team said it expected the trial to conclude around the beginning of August: “Brittney sets an example of being brave.”

The White House said Griner’s guilty plea would have no impact on U.S. negotiations to bring her home.

Biden spoke to Griner’s wife on Wednesday, telling her he was working to have the basketball star released “as soon as possible”, the White House said.

Officials from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow attended Griner’s trial and delivered a letter to her from Biden, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

“We will not relent until Brittney, Paul Whelan and all other wrongfully detained Americans are reunited with their loved ones,” he tweeted, referring to former U.S. Marine Whelan who has been imprisoned in Russia since 2018 on espionage charges.

Russian authorities say there is no basis to consider Griner’s detention illegal and that the case against her is not political despite Moscow’s fraught relations with the United States over the Russian military intervention in Ukraine.

Moscow’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Thursday that it was difficult to exchange prisoners with the United States and suggested Washington stop talking about the fate of Griner.

Asked about Ryabkov’s remarks, the State Department said it would not comment on speculation.

The Russian foreign ministry has said Griner could appeal her sentence or apply for clemency once a verdict has been delivered.

[From Reuters]

The next hearing is on July 14. President Biden spoke to Brittany’s wife on Wednesday and sent a letter to Brittney in Moscow via the US Embassy officials who attended her trial. (According to CNN, Brittney and her wife haven’t spoken themselves since she was arrested in February). Brittney’s admission is that the cartridges were hers, but she didn’t intend to break the law and had packed for her Russia trip in a hurry. According to explanations CBS Sports compiled from various experts, pleading guilty and hoping for a lesser sentence is strategic for several reasons: the Russian legal system would not have acquitted her, a defense may have led to retribution of some sort, and a guilty plea is necessary for a potential prisoner swap down the line. Of course Russia is still insisting that Brittney’s arrest/detention is not political and the Deputy Foreign Minister made some vaguely threatening comments about “attempts by the American side to make noise in public [not] help[ing] the practical settlement off issues” and the difficulty of prisoner exchanges with the US. Hopefully the guilty plea strategy works out and there’s a lot going on behind the scenes to ensure Brittney’s safe return.

Embed from Getty Imagescom’,is360: false })});

Embed from Getty Images

Source: Read Full Article