WNBA star Griner pleads guilty in Russia court on drug, smuggling charges

Daily Mail

U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner reportedly pleaded guilty Thursday to drug possession and smuggling charges in her trial in Russia, where she has been detained on the matter since February, according to the Associated Press.

At Griner’s hearing on Thursday, the 6-foot-9 center was led into the courtroom handcuffed and dressed in a red t-shirt with red pants. She was also seen clutching a water bottle as well as a printed photo of her wife, Cherelle Griner.

‘I’d like to plead guilty, your honor. But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law,’ Griner said, speaking English which was then translated into Russian for the court, according to a Reuters journalist in the courtroom.

‘I’d like to give my testimony later. I need time to prepare,’ she added.

Griner was arrested in February after she was allegedly caught carrying two vape cartridges with cannabis oil in them at a Moscow airport. She has been held in custody since then.

She went on trial July 1, four and a half months after her arrest on charges of possessing cannabis oil. The All-Star was traveling in Russia because, like many WNBA players, she’s plays overseas during the offseason. In Griner’s case, she plays for UMMC Ekaterinburg, on the eastern edge of the European continent.

Griner is considered by the United States to be wrongfully detained, and her guilty plea could be more of a legal strategy than a truthful admission of wrongdoing.

William Pomeranz, an expert on Russian law, told ESPN that defendants have little chance of being found innocent at criminal trials in the country. In fact, fewer than 1 percent of defendants in Russian criminal cases are acquitted, and unlike in U.S. courts, acquittals can be overturned.

As Pomeranz explained, since the trail is ‘a foregone conclusion,’ Griner stood a better chance of pleading guilty in order to reduce her sentence.

‘Traditionally, the best defense is to admit your guilt and hope you get a lesser sentence,’ Pomeranz said. ‘There’s not a lot of examples of people raising strong defenses and getting acquitted.’

Furthermore, pleading innocent could result in authorities retaliating against her by making her life in a Russian prison more miserable than it already is, experts told ESPN.

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