Brittney Griner testified in court today that she was not informed of her rights after she was detained in a Moscow airport on drug charges in February.
“My rights were never read to me. No one explained any of it to me,” Griner said in her testimony. “At that point, I got on my phone and I contacted my spouse, my sports agent and my club team’s translator.”
Griner also said that she had been told to sign papers through an interpreter provided to her at the time, but that “She didn’t explain the content of the paper.” Griner added, “I didn’t know exactly what I was signing.”
Her testimony comes nearly one month after Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges. The WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist had been detained in a Moscow airport in February after officials allegedly found vaping paraphernalia containing cannabis oil in her luggage. If convicted, Griner could face up to ten years in prison.
In court today, Griner said that she had not intended to break Russian law by bringing the vape cartridge into the country, and attributed its appearance in her luggage to a rushed packing job, following her recovery from COVID.
She also said that she had been prescribed medical cannabis to treat chronic injuries. The substance is still illegal in Russia.
In a court appearance on Tuesday, Griner – who appeared in a white metal cage in the courtroom – delivered a message to her wife Cherelle, a recent law school graduate, through ABC news. “Good luck on the bar exam,” she said.
Griner appeared with two photographs in plastic sleeves which she displayed through the bar cages. She told ABC that the images were of “My wife. My two best friends, my teammates.”
When asked if she had any complaints, she told the news outlet, “No, no complaints. Just waiting patiently.”
In May, the U.S. State Department reclassified Griner as “wrongfully detained,” meaning that it believes the charges against her are irrelevant for her detention. The distinction allows the government to negotiate for her release without waiting to see how her trial plays out in court.
There has been talk that Griner, a high-profile prisoner, could be offered in a prisoner swap along with another detained American, Paul Whelan.
Griner had traveled to Russia in February, where she played in the Russian Premier League during the WNBA off-season.
Earlier this month, President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke with Cherelle Griner about her wife’s detention, after Cherelle said in an interview with CBS news that she was upset the president hadn’t reached out to her.
In that meeting, Biden assured Cherelle that they were doing what they could to secure Griner’s release.