Brittney Griner has pleaded guilty to drug charges in Russia but continues to deny intent. She asserts that she “packed in a hurry” and did not intend to bring the cannabis vape cartridges into the country. Griner could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
This was Griner’s second court appearance since her trial started on July 1. A judge had previously ordered that Griner is detained throughout the duration of her trial, which her lawyer says could last up to two months and will likely involve several hearings by the prosecution before the defense has a chance to speak. Her next hearing is scheduled for July 14th.
Griner was detained in Sheremetyevo International Airport after officials allegedly found cannabis vape cartridges in her luggage. She was traveling to Russia to play for a Russian team during the U.S. offseason. Prosecutors allege that Griner purchased two cartridges containing 0.252 grams and 0.45 grams of hash oil for personal use prior to her trip. Her initial hearing on July 1st featured testimonies from the two customs agents who were working at the airport when Griner’s bags were inspected.
U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Elizabeth Rood reported immediately following the July 7th hearing that she was granted permission to speak with Griner in the courtroom.
“She said that she is eating well, she is able to read books and under the circumstances she is doing well,” Rood said.
There have been rumors of a “prisoner swap” to release Griner back to the US in exchange for Russian national and convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout, also known as the “Merchant of Death.” However, according to Reuters, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said there was too much “hype” around the case and that the correspondence between Biden and Griner “does not help” the exchange of prisoners. Russia has said there will not be a potential prisoner swap until after a verdict has been reached.