Brittney Griner pleads guilty to drug charges in Russia

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Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges in a Russian court on Thursday.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist was arrested in February for allegedly trying to bring vape cartridges containing oils derived from cannabis through a Moscow airport. 

U.S. WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on July 7, 2022. - Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and WNBA champion, was detained at Moscow airport in February on charges of carrying in her luggage vape cartridges with cannabis oil, which could carry a 10-year prison sentence.

U.S. WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on July 7, 2022. – Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and WNBA champion, was detained at Moscow airport in February on charges of carrying in her luggage vape cartridges with cannabis oil, which could carry a 10-year prison sentence.
(KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

“I’d like to plead guilty, your honor. But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law,” she said in court, via Reuters.

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

BRITTNEY GRINER CALLS ON WHITE HOUSE O BRING HER, OTHER AMERICANS DETAINED IN RUSSI HOME: ‘I MISS MY FAMILY’

Griner’s guilty plea comes just one day after Russia’s Foreign Ministry said during a news briefing that the WNBA star will have the ability to appeal her verdict or apply for clemency. The Foreign Ministry also disputed claims made by the U.S. that she was wrongfully detained on Feb. 17. 

“The court must first deliver its verdict, but no one is stopping Brittney Griner from making use of the appeal procedure and also from requesting clemency,” a spokesperson for the ministry said, adding that “attempts to present her case as though the American woman was illegally detained do not stand up to criticism.”

US WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on July 7, 2022. - Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and WNBA champion, was detained at Moscow airport in February on charges of carrying in her luggage vape cartridges with cannabis oil, which could carry a 10-year prison sentence.

US WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on July 7, 2022. – Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and WNBA champion, was detained at Moscow airport in February on charges of carrying in her luggage vape cartridges with cannabis oil, which could carry a 10-year prison sentence.
(KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

Rebekah Koffler, a Russian-born former U.S. intelligence officer and expert on Russia and Vladimir Putin, told Fox News Digital on Wednesday that it would be unlikely for Putin to grant Griner clemency in such a highly charged case and her detention would more than likely be used as a bargaining chip for a prison swap or more.

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“Putin and the Kremlin want to exchange Brittney Griner for Viktor Bout, the ‘Merchant of Death,’ no one else. They will drag on the entire process, including appeal, simply as a negotiating tool to get what they want out of the Biden administration,” she explained. 

“Bottom line, Putin will use Ms. Griner for his negotiating leverage in a prisoner swap case or something else. The more news this case makes here in the U.S., stirring emotions, the deeper the Russians will dig in their heels, demanding exchange for Bout or some other concessions. They know our hot buttons.”

US WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on July 7, 2022. - Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and WNBA champion, was detained at Moscow airport in February on charges of carrying in her luggage vape cartridges with cannabis oil, which could carry a 10-year prison sentence. 

US WNBA basketball superstar Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow on July 7, 2022. – Griner, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and WNBA champion, was detained at Moscow airport in February on charges of carrying in her luggage vape cartridges with cannabis oil, which could carry a 10-year prison sentence. 
(KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP via Getty Images)

Following news of Griner’s guilty plea, Koffler added Thursday that she believes she is “doing the right thing” despite being involved in a “sham” trial.  

“The Russians are in charge. Brittney needs to hang tough and have faith that the U.S. government will do everything to get her out.”

She added that engaging in a prisoner swap to bring Griner home could be risky in that it would only “embolden Russia spy services to grab more Americans on their territory who unwittingly break Russia laws” but she has “sympathy” for her situation. 

“I wouldn’t want any American to be in a Russian prison. Bottom line, have faith and pray.”

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The White House confirmed Wednesday that President Joe Biden spoke with Griner’s wife and are actively “working to secure Brittney’s release as soon as possible, as well as the release of Paul Whelan and other U.S. nationals who are wrongfully detained or held hostage in Russia and around the world.”

Griner, who has played in Russia for the last seven years during the WNBA offseason, could face up to 10 years in prison. Her next court hearing is scheduled for July 14.

Paulina Dedaj is a Digital Reporter for Fox News and Fox Business. Follow Paulina Dedaj on Twitter at @PaulinaDedaj. If you’ve got a tip, you can email Paulina at Paulina.Dedaj@fox.com

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