Brittney Griner Testifies She Was Asked To Sign Documents Without Understanding Them
AFP

The trial of Brittney Griner continued in a Russian courtroom on Wednesday as the WNBA star shared her testimony and was cross-examined by the defense and the prosecution. 

During cross-examination by the defense, Griner recalled what happened at the Moscow airport on Feb. 17, the day she was arrested. The Phoenix Mercury player described catching an exhausting 13-hour flight to Moscow from Arizona while recovering from COVID-19.

She told defense lawyer Maria Blagovolina that, after she went through passport control and security at the Moscow airport, a staff member with a dog pulled her aside and asked her to open her bags, before finding two vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage.

Another airport worker “opened the cartridges, smelled them,” and then her passport was taken, Griner said. She signed multiple documents that she said she needed Google translate to understand. An interpreter was present, but that person allegedly provided an incomplete translation of what she was signing, according to CBS News

Griner was later moved to another room, where she tried to call her lawyer, before her phone was then taken away. She was instructed to sign additional documents without an explanation nor fully understanding what they implied. No attorney was present, and she was never read her rights at the time, Griner said. Her lawyers were not allowed to see her until the following morning. 

“At that point, it felt like I was being held against my will. I asked again what’s going on and when can I see my lawyer. I was then told I have to be interrogated,” Griner told the court on Wednesday.

“No, my rights were not explained to me. Nobody explained anything to me,” she added. “There was a woman there who said that she is a translator, but she only translated words like, ‘name, signature.’”

Griner was then cross-examined by the prosecution, which asked her whether she pleaded guilty to drug smuggling.

“I do understand charges against me. [The substance] ended up in my bags by accident…I do take responsibility for them being in my bag, but I didn’t plan on bringing anything to Russia,” Griner said during cross-examination.

In her previous court appearance on Tuesday, her defense team argued that, like many international athletes, she was prescribed medical cannabis for “severe chronic pain,” and that the cannabis oil was not used for recreational purposes. Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges earlier this month, a decision that her lawyers hope will lead to a “lenient” verdict. 

The hearing on Wednesday began at around 3 p.m. Russian local time (8 a.m. E.T.) and lasted for about two and a half hours. The next hearing in Griner’s ongoing drug trial is scheduled for August 2. 

According to her lawyers, the trial is expected to end in early August. However, a Russian court has authorized Griner’s detention until Dec. 20.

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