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Brittney Griner’s Attorneys Present Defense After Guilty Plea

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


WNBA player Brittney Griner headed back to a Russian court after pleading guilty to drug charges to begin the next phase of her trial.

In Russia pleading guilty does not end a trial. After she pleaded guilty it moved on to the testimony, in writing and in person, of her character and athletic prowess, ESPN reported.

Her Russian attorneys had an excuse for why their client had cannabis on her when she was detained at a Russian airport in February, a doctor’s note.

“The attending physician gave Brittney recommendations for the use of medical cannabis,” her attorney, Maria Blagovolina, said. “The permission was issued on behalf of the Arizona Department of Health.”

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After her court appearance U.S. Embassy charge d’affaires Elizabeth Rood spoke in defense of Griner.

“In the hearings yesterday and today what became very clear is the tremendous amount of respect and admiration both in the United States and here in Russia where Miss Griner has been playing basketball for seven years, not only for her professional achievements but for her character and integrity,” she said.

On Friday Democrat Sen. Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock pressured President Joe Biden to do more to get Griner home.

“What option are you considering in ongoing negotiations?” he said. “Are you able to ensure Brittney does not remain in custody during the trial? Do you have an indication of what the Russian government would accept in return for her release?

“I recognize the complexity of the current situation, but Brittney Griner cannot become a victim of geopolitical events and autocratic war. I urge you to pursue swift negotiations to secure her immediate release,” he said.

Cherelle Griner, the wife of WNBA player and Russian detainee Brittney Griner, spoke after her wife pleaded guilty to drug possession charges in Russia.

She said that the letter penned by President Joe Biden to her wife, as she sits in a Russian prison, brought both of them “so much joy,” ABC News reported.

“I believe every word that she said to him, he understood and he sees her as a person,” she said at a press conference in Chicago on Friday afternoon. “And he has not forgotten her, which was her biggest cry in her letter.”

“I’m grateful and I’m thankful that the administration that was the first one that BG ever voted for, took the time to see her as a person,” Cherelle Griner said, “to see her in the midst of what she’s going through and to speak to me directly and let her know that they are exhausting all efforts to bring her home.”

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Brittney Griner penned her own letter to President Biden that she gave to observers at her trial who were from the United States.

“As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever,” she said to the president.

Griner’s team of Russian attorneys has said that she has “decided to take full responsibility for her actions” with her guilty plea to a drug charge in a Moscow court.

“Today BG (Griner) pleaded guilty,” her attorneys said on Thursday. “It was her decision, informed by discussion with her legal defense team in Russia.

“Brittney sets an example of being brave. She decided to take full responsibility for her actions as she knows that she is a role model for many people.

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“Considering the nature of her case, the insignificant amount of the substance and [Ms Griner’s] personality and history of positive contributions to global and Russian sport, the defense hopes that the plea will be considered by the court as a mitigating factor and there will be no severe sentence,” they said.

On Thursday Griner pleaded guilty and asked the court for mercy.

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

“I was in a rush packing and the cartridges accidentally ended up in my bag,” she said, ESPN reported.

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She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of large-scale transportation of drugs.

Sources said the guilty plea to charges of drug possession and smuggling was a strategy to help facilitate a prisoner swap that could bring Griner home, and it also was a recognition that there was no way she was going to be acquitted.

U.S. officials and Russian experts have described the trial on drug smuggling charges as “theater,” with a guilty verdict seen as a foregone conclusion.

Thursday was the second day of her trial on charges that she tried to bring vape cartridges containing hashish oil into Russia on Feb. 17, where she was detained by customs officials at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

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