Brittney Griner pleads guilty to drug charges in Russia, now what

Posted at 11:02 PM, Jul 07, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-08 00:15:10-04

The jailed American Basketball star Brittney Griner plead guilty to drug possession and smuggling during her trial in Moscow on Thursday.

Griner said she unintentionally packed vape cartridges that contained hashish oil, which is illegal in Russia.

Cameras captured the WNBA star as she entered a Russian courtroom.

"I worry about her, and I love her," said Debbie Jackson, Griner's former highschool coach. "She's kind of a goofy, funny person. She's not a novice, at international traveler team play."

Jackson still can't wrap her head around Griner's arrest. After nearly 5 months in Russian custody, Jackson has her own thoughts about the recent guilty plea.

"It was just unbelievable to me that that really happened. It was just unbelievable to me that that really happened, the first thing that came into my mind was it had been planted. Just because she pleaded guilty does not mean she is guilty," Jackson said. "She's a superstar in Russia, and this was somebody from the United States that can be used as a pawn to get relief sanctions that the U.S. had placed on Russia, or a prisoner swap exchange."

As a history professor at Texas A&M Central Texas, Jerry Jones believes history repeats itself. In Brittney Griner's case, it's no different.

"99 percent of people who are charged with a crime in Russia, are found guilty. So you're more likely to get some kind of leniency. If you plead guilty," said Jones. "Negotiations are very delicate, but they follow a familiar model from the Cold War. Prisoner exchanges during the Cold War were amid conflict. Some of them happened during the tensest moments of the Cold War."

Jones points out the recent release of Trevor Reed. Reed was a former Marine who was detained in Russia back in 2019. He was released at the end of April this year, as the Russian conflict with Ukraine began.

Jones said there is some hope for Griner's release, but there is one major element that has yet to be solved.

"There was some debate among her legal counsel about the best move. They did decide it was the best paths path forward, for her to plead guilty. The question is how long does it take to satisfy Russian demands and for the U.S. to be willing to pay the price that the Russians are demanding," said Jones.

As calls grow louder for Griner's release, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Griner's guilty plea has no impact on the U.S. commitment to bring her and other Americans detained in Russia home.

Jackson said, "We're just going to have to hope that the U.S. government, through negotiations, can bring her and hopefully the other Americans, some of who've been there two to three years, back home in the United States as soon as possible."

Griner is expected to be back in court on July 14, if convicted she could face 10 years in prison.