Brittney Griner pleads guilty in Russian court
Russian police escorted WNBA star Brittney Griner to the courtroom Thursday, handcuffed and dressed in a red T-shirt. In front of the judge, she pleaded guilty to drug possession and smuggling but said she had no intention of committing a crime. Her trial started last week. In February, Russia detained her at an airport roughly a week before it invaded Ukraine for allegedly possessing cannabis oil. In court Thursday, Griner said she acted unintentionally because she was rushing to pack. The judge could charge her with large-scale transportation of drugs which can come with up to 10 years in prison.
What is the U.S. doing to bring her back? The State Department in April designated Griner as wrongfully detained, which puts her case in the hands of the government’s top negotiator. But a senior Russian diplomat said that the designation could aggravate the Russian government and make negotiations more difficult. He also said that there is no reason to talk about a prisoner exchange until she’s sentenced. Less than 1 percent of people charged with a crime in Russia are acquitted, and an expert in the Russian legal system said it is almost always best to plead guilty to get a lesser sentence.
Dig deeper: Read Jill Nelson’s report in WORLD Magazine on Russians trying to leave their country after a new iron curtain descended.
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