WNBA star pleads guilty to drug charges: NPR

Britney Greiner was escorted to a courtroom in Khimki, just outside Moscow, for a hearing on Thursday.

Alexander Zemlianchenko/AFP

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Alexander Zemlianchenko/AFP

Britney Greiner was escorted to a courtroom in Khimki, just outside Moscow, for a hearing on Thursday.

Alexander Zemlianchenko/AFP

Britney Grenier pleaded guilty to drug charges as her trial in Russian court continued Thursday, admitting to bringing cannabis into the country but saying she packed hastily and did not intend to break the law.

The Phoenix Mercury Center and Olympic medalist could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

This was Greiner’s second court appearance since her trial It started in earnest last Friday. A judge had previously ordered her to be detained for the duration of the trial Her lawyer said It may last up to two months and likely include several hearings by the prosecution before the defense takes its turn. Another session is scheduled for next Thursday.

Greiner was arrested on February 17 – a week before Russia launched its massive invasion of Ukraine – after authorities at Sheremetyevo International Airport allegedly found cannabis cartridges in her luggage. She was traveling there because she plays for a Russian team during the US season, which is what many WNBA players do They complete their entry.

Prosecutors allege that prior to her flight, Griner purchased two cartridges containing 0.252 grams and 0.45 grams of hash oil for personal use. Last week’s session Testimony from two customs officials who were working at the airport surfaced when Grenier’s bags were searched.

Most of Thursday’s proceedings were spent in testimony before the prosecution, by two witnesses who were present at the airport when Grenier was arrested. Greiner watched as he crammed into a small cage in a corner of the heated courtroom, without saying much.

After the prosecution concluded its case, Greiner stood up and asked to make a statement. She entered her guilty plea and asked for more time to prepare another testimony.

“I would like to plead guilty to the charges,” she said. “But I had no intention of breaking any Russian law. I was in a hurry, and I accidentally ended up in my bags.”

When Griner’s lawyers were asked why she pleaded guilty today, he said it was her first chance to face the charges, adding that she recognized she was a role model for many and believed it was important that she take her responsibility – something they hope the judge will rule. It will be taken into account when adjudicating her case. Her lawyers will explain her actions in more detail and present her defense next week.

The Biden administration — which officially announced in May that Greiner was being unjustly held — believes the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered her arrest in order to use her as leverage, although the Kremlin insists the case is not politically motivated.

Thursday’s session comes as the Biden administration faces off Growing public pressure to secure Griner’s releaseespecially after Greiner herself sought help in a handwritten letter delivered to the White House on the Fourth of July.

The White House announced Wednesday that the president spoke to Greiner’s wife, Cheryl (after facing criticism for not doing so sooner), and read her a draft letter he intended to send her that same day. I reiterated that the release of Greiner and other American detainees is a top priority.

Following Thursday’s procedures, US Deputy Chief of Mission Elizabeth Rudd Reporters They delivered Biden’s letter to Grenier. She was once again able to speak with Griner in the courtroom.

“She said she’s eating well, she’s able to read books and under those conditions she’s doing really well,” Rudd said.

There has been talk in Washington and Moscow about a possible prisoner exchange involving Greiner and a Russian citizen imprisoned in the United States, citing confirmation from an official source. Known as “The Merchant of Death”.

But Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov on Thursday noted the difficulty of exchanging prisoners with the United States, in comments. Reported by Reuters. Referring to the letter Biden intended to send to Grenier, he said that “hype” about the issue isn’t helping, and that “that kind of correspondence doesn’t help.”

Russia has said there will be no possible prisoner exchange until after a verdict is reached.

Mainz reported from Russia. Treisman reported from Washington, DC