Brittney Griner: Major Update Released

by Chris Haney

On Thursday, WNBA star Brittney Griner returned to court in Russia for the third hearing of her ongoing trial related to illegal drug charges. Griner has been locked up in Moscow since Russian authorities detained her at Sheremetyevo airport after finding vape cartridges in her luggage that contained a small amount of hashish oil. The Phoenix Mercury star has been in custody since February 17th and is still facing upwards of 10 years in prison.

Earlier today, cameras captured Russian guards escorting Brittney Griner into Khimki Court in Moscow. Her lawyers, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, accompanied the basketball player in court. Last week, Griner pleaded guilty to the drug charges against her. However, in Russia, a guilty plea does not bring the trial to an end.

Now, her attorneys are sharing arguments in hopes of receiving a reduced punishment. Yet it is unclear if the court announced a verdict against Griner today. Some reports are stating that Griner’s guilty plea may expedite court proceedings. Especially as the U.S. government comes under fire for not doing enough to bring her home sooner. But a senior Russian diplomat has said no action could be taken by Moscow until the trial was over.

As Brittney Griner’s Russian trial presses on, reports continue to circulate about the possibility of a prisoner exchange. Supposedly, Russian officials want to swap Griner for international arms dealer Viktor Bout, also known as the “Merchant of Death.” Bout was the inspiration for the 2005 film Lord of War starring Nicolas Cage. The U.S. court system convicted Bout in 2011 and he has five years left of his sentence to serve in prison before he’s released.

Brittney Griner Pleads Guilty to Drug Possession, Asks Russian Court for Mercy

Last week, Brittney Griner and her defense team in Russia pleaded guilty to drug possession while at trial. During the hearing, her lawyers claimed that she “inadvertently” traveled overseas with the hashish oil. While pleading guilty in Griner’s case, the WNBA star asked the Russian court for mercy.

“I’d like to plead guilty, your honor. But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law,” Griner said in court last Thursday.

“We of course hope for the leniency of the court,” Griner’s attorney Maria Blagovolina said to reporters outside the court. “Considering all the circumstances of the case, taking into account the personality of our client, we believe that the admission of guilt should certainly be taken into account.”

ESPN reporter T.J. Quinn shared that the guilty plea is a possible strategy to help facilitate a prisoner swap. It also comes after Griner and her defense team realized Russian officials had no plans of an acquittal. Griner’s attorney, Alexander Boykov, told reporters that they’re aiming for the most lenient sentencing possible.