Brittney Griner shares message to wife as WNBA star’s drug trial in Russia resumes

The WNBA star told ABC News she wanted to wish her wife, Cherelle Griner, “good luck on the bar exam” while her legal team was set to present evidence in Russian court on Tuesday.
As Brittney Griner returned to court in Russia on Tuesday for her drawn-out trial on drug charges, the American basketball star told ABC News she has a message for her wife, Cherelle, who recently graduated from law school.

“Good luck on the bar exam,” Griner said.

Griner briefly spoke to ABC News during a break in Tuesday’s proceedings at a courthouse in the Moscow suburb of Khimki. When asked whether she has any complaints, she said: “No, no complaints. Just waiting patiently.”

She arrived in court that morning holding up two photographs in a clear, plastic sleeve. When asked during the break who was in the photos, she told ABC News: “My wife. My two best friends, my teammates.”

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Thursday afternoon that officials were with Griner in court on Tuesday, and confirmed that she was “doing OK,” and the department has “routinely conveyed those discussions” to Griner’s wife.

“I would say that we have made the case of Brittney Griner, we have made the case of Paul Whelan, an absolute priority and we are working actively, quietly, behind the scenes to do everything we can to see that their wrongful detentions come to an end as quickly as possible,” Price said.

PHOTO: Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow, July 26, 2022.
Brittney Griner arrives to a hearing at the Khimki Court, outside Moscow, July 26, 2022.
Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images
Price added that the department won’t be satisfied until Griner is back with her family.

“We don’t look at this in terms of satisfaction. We look at this through the lens of doing everything we possibly can to see to it that these individuals are reunited with their families as quickly as we can,” Price said.

Griner’s legal team continued to present evidence and called another witness to testify on Tuesday as pressure mounts on the United States to secure her release.

MORE: Cherelle Griner says Biden ‘has not forgotten’ Brittney Griner
Griner, a 31-year-old Houston native who plays professional basketball for the Phoenix Mercury, was returning to Russia to play in the WNBA’s offseason when she was detained at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Khimki on Feb. 17, after being accused of having vape cartridges containing hashish oil, which is illegal in the country.

Cherelle Griner has told ABC News that she has communicated with Brittney Griner “sporadically” through letters but hasn’t spoken to her via telephone since she was arrested. The U.S. government had arranged for the couple to connect on the phone last month, during their fourth anniversary, but that had to be rescheduled date due to a “logistical error,” according to U.S. Department of State spokesperson Ned Price.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist was expected to testify last week, but her testimony was delayed until Wednesday at the request of her legal team so she could have more time to prepare. If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison and also has a right to an appeal.

PHOTO: Brittney Griner holds images standing in a cage at a court room prior to a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, July 26, 2022.
Brittney Griner holds images standing in a cage at a court room prior to a hearing, in Khimki just outside Moscow, July 26, 2022.
Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP, POOL
Griner pleaded guilty on drug charges in court last week, saying that the vape cartridges containing hashish oil were in her luggage mistakenly. She said she had no “intention” of breaking Russian law and did not mean to leave the cartridges in her bag.

Her legal team told ABC News in a statement last week that her “guilty” plea was recommended by her Russian attorneys.

“Brittney sets an example of being brave. She decided to take full responsibility for her actions as she knows that she is a role model for many people,” the lawyers said in the statement. “Considering the nature of her case, the insignificant amount of the substance and BG’s personality and history of positive contributions to global and Russian sport, the defense hopes that the plea will be considered by the court as a mitigating factor and there will be no severe sentence.”