MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
The trial of American basketball star Brittney Griner picked up again today in Moscow. Griner testified in her defense against drug charges. She faces a possible 10 years in jail. NPR's Charles Maynes was at the courthouse today.
CHARLES MAYNES, BYLINE: Griner already pleaded guilty to what she insists was accidentally bringing a small amount of hash oil into Russia as she arrived for off-season play in February. And today her testimony, provided to the press through a low-grade audio feed, gave a hard to hear but nevertheless detailed play-by-play account of what occurred.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
BRITTNEY GRINER: The stress of packing, making sure - COVID tests...
MAYNES: Griner described the stress of rushing to pack comfort foods, like her favorite Texas barbecue sauce, as she prepared to join her teammates at UMMC Ekaterinburg in the Russian league playoffs. And she spoke of her growing horror and confusion after customs agents discovered two vape cartridges that she'd forgotten to remove from her bags amid the hurry. I take responsibility for my actions, said Griner, but I did not intend to smuggle or plan to smuggle anything into Russia.
Griner said the cannabis had been prescribed by a U.S. doctor and provided by a licensed Arizona dispensary to help deal with chronic pain in her back and knees during a brief downtime between her season with the WNBA and Russian league play. She also said she was careful to constrain her use to that period, well aware that mandated drug testing could jeopardize her team's success and her own career, to which she had sacrificed both time and body at home and overseas. In fact, Griner's detailed testimony also dovetailed nicely with nearly everything her defense had laid out in previous hearings. And that's no accident, says her Russian lawyer, Alexander Boikov, to NPR.
ALEXANDER BOIKOV: She didn't need a lot of preparation because she just told her story. And she had a lot of time to think about it since February. And it's not hard to tell the truth.
MAYNES: Even as the legal drama continues, the U.S. and Russia have hinted at a possible prisoner swap once the trial's complete. Today U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken revealed he would speak to his Russian counterpart about wrongfully detained Americans in the coming days. Charles Maynes, NPR News, Moscow.
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