Brittney Griner, the American basketball star who has been detained in Russia since February, pleaded guilty to drug charges in court on Thursday.
Griner faces up to 10 years in prison for the offense. Her guilty plea was widely reported by western news outlets,
“Griner told the court Thursday she had not intended to commit a crime, state news agency RIA Novosti reported,”
Griner, a legend in the women’s basketball ranks who plays for the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, was arrested in a Moscow airport on February 17 after officials said they found cannabis oil in her luggage.
Her arrest and longstanding detention, which came amid rising tensions between the United States and Russia over the latter’s invasion of Ukraine, are widely seen as politically motivated.
In May, the U.S. said that it officially considers Griner “wrongfully detained.”
“The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is among the highest priorities of the U.S government,” the State Department
Griner’s guilty plea comes less than a week after she appeared in court at the start of her trial last Friday.
“Being sufficiently aware that the movement of narcotic drugs is not allowed… no later than February 17, 2022 at an unspecified location under unspecified circumstances from an unidentified person [Griner] bought two cartridges for personal use, which contained 0.252 grams and 0.45 grams of hash oil, totaling 0.702 grams,” the prosecutor said, as quoted by CNN.
On Friday, “Griner left the courtroom without giving any comment to reporters,” according to
Brittney Griner Pleads Guilty Following Letter to President Biden
Griner’s guilty plea also comes the same week that she sent a handwritten letter to President Joe Biden.
“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,” Griner said in the letter, as reported by
“I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other American detainees. Please do all you can to bring us home,” she
On Wednesday, the White House said that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris had spoken to Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner.
“The President called Cherelle to reassure her that he is working to secure Brittney’s release as soon as possible, as well as the release of Paul Whelan and other U.S. nationals who are wrongfully detained or held hostage in Russia and around the world. He also read her a draft of the letter the President is sending to Brittney Griner today,”
In her letter, Griner said that she was a supporter of Biden in the 2020 election.
“I voted for the first time in 2020 and I voted for you. I believe in you,” Griner said. “I still have so much good to do with my freedom that you can help restore. I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my teammates! It kills me to know they are suffering so much right now. I am grateful for whatever you can do at this moment to get me home.”