Detained WNBA star Brittney Griner has pleaded guilty to drug charges this morning in Russia, ESPN reports.
Appearing in a courtroom in Khimki, Griner told the judge that she brought hashish oil “inadvertently” while asking the court for mercy. Even though she entered a guilty plea, the trial will continue with the judge entering the full case file into public records. Unfortunately, that could still take weeks or even months to complete.
The Phoenix Mercury center stated that she accidentally packed the vape cartridges into her luggage and did not mean to break Russian law. She has been detained in the country since her arrest at a Moscow airport in February. She was charged with large-scale transportation of drugs, which carries a 10-year prison sentence if convicted.
Sources are saying that the guilty plea could be a strategic move that would help facilitate a prisoner swap for Griner’s safe return to the states, while also recognizing that there was no way she could be acquitted.
The U.S. government is now looking to work out a deal that would exchange Russian prisoners in U.S. custody for Griner and Paul Whelan, another American who has been detained in Russia since 2018. One noteworthy Russian prisoner that could be involved is arms dealer Viktor Bout. Bout is currently serving a 25-year sentence for supporting terrorism. However, there has been some concern within the Biden Administration about releasing the so-called “Merchant of Death.”
Experts say that an admission of guilt is pretty much necessary to work out any deal with Russian courts. Of course, there will be a complicated public reaction now that Griner has pleaded guilty. However, one source says that the overall thought is to get her home however possible and deal with the backlash when she returns.
We are praying for Griner’s safe return to the states, no matter how it happens.