WNBA Star Pleads Guilty to Drug Charges in Russia Hoping Biden Will Save Her

AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

WNBA star Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to a drugs charge in a Russian court on Thursday, claiming she brought the vape vials filled with hashish oil into Russia accidentally.


“I’d like to plead guilty, your honor. But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law,” Griner said as reported by Reuters.

Griner was on her way to play for her team in Ekaterinburg last February and stopped in Moscow, where authorities searched her luggage and found the hash oil. Her celebrity status has resulted in an enormous outpouring of support and has placed Joe Biden in an awkward position. Griner’s lesbian wife complained publicly, so Biden met with her last week.

But what about other Americans held hostage in Russia? Former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan has been held in Russia for three years after he was arrested for espionage. Biden has never called the family of Whelan, never met with them, and never advocated for his release.

Perhaps if he had been a black lesbian sports superstar, it would have been different.


The U.S. government has Griner listed as being “unlawfully detained.” But Griner was caught red-handed carrying an illegal substance in a country with extremely harsh penalties for drug possession. What should we expect?

U.S. officials and many athletes have called for the release of Griner – or “BG” as she is known to basketball fans – who they say has been wrongfully detained.

Her case has also prompted concerns that Moscow could use it as leverage to negotiate the release of a high-profile Russian citizen in U.S. custody.

Russian authorities say there is no basis to consider Griner’s detention illegal and that the case against her is not political despite Moscow’s fraught relations with United States over the Russian military intervention in Ukraine.

Moscow’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said on Thursday that it was difficult to exchange prisoners with the United States and suggested Washington stop talking about the fate of Griner.

Griner was caught carrying two vials totaling 0.702 grams of cannabis oil, which is approximately two-hundredths of an ounce. That small amount could get her ten years in a Russian prison. So what do the Russians want if they give us Griner?


How about Viktor Bout, an arms dealer known as “The Merchant of Death”?

NBC News:

The potential exchange has sparked a debate over whether the U.S. should give in to blackmail, given the disparity between the case of Bout, who was lawfully convicted of serious crimes, and Griner, who faces a stacked Russian justice system and is considered by U.S. officials to be a hostage. Zissou says it is possible Paul Whelan, who has been jailed in Russia since 2018 on what his family says are bogus spying charges, could also figure in the deal.

“I would take that trade,” said Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia. Under federal sentencing rules, Bout could be released from prison in five years.

The Russians may take their time in making any exchange. The Griner trial is ongoing, and the WNBA star has yet to make a statement fully admitting her guilt and throwing herself at the mercy of the court.

Eventually, they will relent when they can no longer milk the Griner story for any more propaganda points.


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