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WNBA's Brittney Griner Apologizes in Russian Court: 'I Made an Honest Mistake'

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVAugust 4, 2022

AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko

Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner apologized to the Russian court Thursday as her trial on drug smuggling charges draws to a close.

"I never meant to hurt anybody, I never meant to put in jeopardy the Russian population, I never meant to break any laws here," she said, per CNN. "I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling that it doesn’t end my life here. I know everybody keeps talking about political pawn and politics, but I hope that that is far from this courtroom.

"I want to say again that I had no intent on breaking any Russian laws. I had no intent. I did not conspire or plan to commit this crime."

Griner pleaded guilty in July, and ESPN's T.J. Quinn reported Russian prosecutors have asked for a prison sentence of nine-and-a-half years.

The seven-time All-Star has been detained for 168 days after she was arrested for carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage at a Moscow airport.

Quinn reported July 7 that Griner's guilty plea "was a strategy to help facilitate a prisoner swap that could bring Griner home, and it also was a recognition that there was no way she was going to be acquitted."

In May, the U.S. State Department determined Griner was being wrongfully detained in Russia, signalling an increased effort to secure her release.

CNN's Kylie Atwood, Evan Perez and Jennifer Hansler first reported July 28 the Biden administration was prepared to exchange convicted arms trafficker Viktor Bout for Griner and Paul Whelan, a former U.S. Marine arrested in 2018 on espionage charges.

Natasha Bertrand and Frederik Pleitgen of CNN reported Russian officials countered by requesting to have convicted murderer Vadim Krasikov released along with Bout.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre addressed the possible prisoner swap during a press briefing Monday.

"We put forward a substantial offer," she said. "And we—you know, we want to have a good-faith conversation on that. We want to make sure that we get this done as soon as possible. ... There was a counteroffer that was made, which we don't see it as a serious counteroffer."

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