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Brittney Griner plead guilty to drug possession in Russia

By Rodrigo Verney, July 28 2022

The Phoenix Mercury guard and WNBA all-star Brittney Griner has been detained in Moscow for five months now. While her close family and the United States join forces to free Brittney, this conflict appears to be working towards a slow conclusion. The story picked up steam in March and saw a resurgence after Brittney’s shocking guilty plea. Members of the sports world are devastated by this trial that they believe to be a Russian political move.

The news broke on March 5 after the New York Times alongside Russia’s news agency TASS first broke the news that Brittney was detained at the Sheremetyevo airport in what appeared to be a problem with customer service officials. The Russian Federal customer service claims to have found hashish oil in her vape that she was carrying with her in her luggage. Brittney was allegedly arrested on the spot and a criminal case has been openly accusing her of “large scale transportation of drugs.” A sentence that Brittney could face up to 10 years in prison for, if found guilty.

On the same date that the news broke out to the world, the WNBA released a statement saying that the league will support Brittney and make getting her back home safe their prime concern. The WNBA is also committed to paying her full salary and displays her number and initials on the sideline of every WNBA court.

Unfortunately, the situation was far from being de-escalated as, 12 days later, a TASS report quoted a Moscow court saying that Brittney’s detention in Russia has been extended until May 19.

This haunting news shocked the whole WNBA community which included Griner‘s wife Cherelle Griner, who asked for privacy as she evaluated her options to “bring my wife home safely.” United States Secretary of State Anthony Blinken also spoke on the matter during a press conference.

“We have an embassy team that’s working on the cases of other Americans who are detained in Russia. We’re doing everything we can to see to it that their rights are upheld and respected,” said Blinken.

However, this is a slow and painful process no matter the amount of effort. Thankfully the Griners had a moment of levity in this situation when they were able to talk on March 23 after a U.S. consular visit to Russia. They were able to talk with their attorneys, which eased a lot of concerned family members and fans.

It wouldn’t be until April 27 that the case would pick up steam again as the Biden administration announced that the former Marine Trevor Reed who was being detained in Russia since 2019 was released from custody as part of a political deal as an exchange of prisoners. Cherelle spoke on social media stating that she was “overflowing with joy“ for the Reed family. She also stated that she may not know them personally but she does know the pain of having a loved one detained away from home.

“That level of pain is constant and can only be remedied by a safe return home,” said Cherelle.

After two months of smilingly slow news regarding Brittney’s case, the spotlight was turned back to her after she had written a letter to be delivered to the White House. Brittney’s representatives published parts of her statement. One of these excerpts captivated the public as it portrayed the fear that surrounded Brittney’s reality.

“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. I voted for the first time in 2020 and I voted for you. I believe in you. 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,” read the statement.

A few days later Brittney pleaded guilty as part of her legal team’s strategy to be sent back to the United States in another prisoner exchange deal. Given that a guilty plea in Russia does not equal the end of the trial the jury will still look at the whole case, which can add up to months for a formal declaration.

Many sports analysts are enraged by this strategy claiming that it portrays the reality of the situation for what it truly is — that Brittney is being used as political leverage by Russia. This clearly invalidates her case, in their opinion. Many on social media were against the plea deal as they repudiate the thought of negotiating with Russia amidst an international war.

Regardless of the social and political conditions of the world, this trial should be focused on bringing Brittney back as soon as possible. The all-star who has played for UMMC Ekaterinburg in the Russian Premier League during the WNBA offseason is more than a great player. She is a daughter, a wife and a U.S. citizen that deserves to have her rights to a fair trial respected.

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