Brittney Griner returned to a Russian court on Thursday, just one week after the WNBA player plead guilty to drug charges.
Griner entered a guilty plea last week, admitting to bringing cannabis into Russia but saying she had no intention of breaking any laws. “I was in a rush packing and the cartridges accidentally ended up in my bags,” she said.
In Griner’s third hearing in the trial, Griner’s legal team said that she chose to plead guilty to take full responsibility for her actions and hopes the judge will take that into account ahead of sentencing.
“Considering the nature of her case, the insignificant amount of the substance and BG’s personality and history of positive contributions to global and Russian sport, the defense hopes that the plea will be considered by the court as a mitigating factor and there will be no severe sentence,” they wrote.
The defense brought forth three witnesses, all members of Griner’s Russian team for which Griner has played since 2014. Her teammates defended her character, on and off the court.
Griner’s teammate described Griner’s accomplishments off the court, her willingness to meet with fans and support the local animal shelter.
Maksim Ryabkov, the club’s director of operations, called Griner a “unique player” whom he had personally recruited to play in Russia. “There was no one close to her level. And thanks to Brittney, we won,” he told the court. Her dominance extended to Russian success in the European leagues and helped grow the women’s game in Russia, Ryabkov described.
An additional layer to the testimony came from UMMC’s team doctor, Anatoly Kalabin. Dr. Kalabin spoke on the issue of possible drug use by Griner. He noted an athlete of Griner’s caliber endures continuous testing. “In all the years, I’ve worked with her, she never failed a test,” said Kalabin.
Griner attended to the testimony from a locked cage in the corner of the courtroom. She moved by her friends testimony. She teared up on a few occasions. Griner did not testify. She will take the stand in couple weeks’ time.
The Biden administration considers Griner to be “wrongfully detained is reportedly is working to bring her home, in addition to other wrongfully detained Americans in Russia.
If convicted, Griner could face up to 10 years in a Russian prison.