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Brittney Griner Pleads Guilty To Drug Charges

By Jennifer Roback

On July 7, 2022, WNBA star Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to bringing hashish oil into Russia.

"I'd like to plead guilty, your honor. But there was no intent. I didn't want to break the law," Griner told the judge, via ESPN.

While Griner's plea might come as a shock to many, experts have said that her decision to plead guilty could help facilitate a prisoner swap that would bring her home.

ESPN notes that a possible resolution in Griner's case could be a deal that brings one or more Russians in US custody back to Russia in exchange for Griner and possibly Paul Whelan, who has been detained in Russia since December 2018.

Over the years, Russia has sought the release of Viktor Bout, who was sentenced to 25 years behind bars for supporting terrorism, but members of the Biden Administration have reportedly urged on the side of caution when it comes to the release of Bout, who also goes by the nickname, "the Merchant of Death."

Just days before her plea, the WNBA star wrote a letter to the president asking for help.

"(As) I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I'm terrified I might be here forever," she wrote, via CNN.

"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."

Biden later responded to Griner's letter and spoke with her wife, Cherelle Griner.

"The President called Cherelle to reassure her that he is working to secure Brittney's release as soon as possible, as well as the release of Paul Whelan and other US nationals who are wrongfully detained or held hostage in Russia and around the world. He also read her a draft of the letter the President is sending to Brittney Griner today," the White House said, via CNN.

At this time, it remains unclear when or if a deal will be struck. Griner's detention has since been extended through December 20.

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