After months of silence, there is finally an update out of Russia on WNBA star Brittney Griner’s detention. Over four months after her initial arrest in February of this year for allegedly bringing a vape cartridge of hashish oil into a Moscow airport, she pled guilty in a court outside of Moscow on Thursday to a drug smuggling charge and her trial is set to begin on Friday.
If convicted, Griner faces 10 years in a Russian penal colony. The New York Times reported before she pled guilty her trial will likely end in a conviction, an outcome that is now extremely likely.
She appeared for a hearing at a court outside of Moscow on Monday that determined her detention for cannabis possession will be extended at least another six months until December 20. Photos taken by international press of a handcuffed Griner on Monday were the first to emerge of the two-time Olympic gold medalist since March.
On July 4, Griner wrote a letter to President Biden, urging him, “please don’t forget about me” and “please do all you can to bring [me and other American detainees] home.” Other excerpts released from her letter include: “I’m terrified I might be here forever” and “I miss my wife! I miss my family!” Griner has only been able to communicate with her wife and family through handwritten letters since her February 17 arrest.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed Tuesday that President Biden has read Griner’s letter and said “this is very personal to him” and that “we are going to use every tool we possibly can” to bring Griner home. Forbes reported in May that the White House could be negotiating a prisoner swap, but the White House has not commented on that possibility. On Thursday, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Russia won’t discuss a prisoner exchange for Griner until she is formally convicted.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala called Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, on Wednesday after Cherelle publicly expressed disappointment Tuesday that the White House had not reached out to her yet. A statement released by the White House read, “the president offered his support to Cherelle and Brittney’s family, and he committed to ensuring they are provided with all possible assistance while his administration pursues every avenue to bring Brittney home.” It also stated that Biden read Cherelle a draft of the letter he plans to send to Brittney.
Cherelle told CBS News on Tuesday, “[Brittney] truly is terrified that she may never see us again. You know, I share those same sentiments.”
This article was originally published on July 6 and was updated on July 7 to reflect developments in the story.