'I'm terrified I might be here forever': Griner writes letter to Biden

‘I’m terrified I might be here forever’: WNBA star Brittney Griner writes letter to Joe Biden asking him to ‘do all you can’ to bring her and other American prisoners home from Russia

  • Imprisoned WNBA star Brittney Griner is pleading with President Joe Biden to help her and other American detainees escape Russian detention
  • In her first public message since being arrested on drug charges in February, Griner begged for her freedom and said she’s scared she’ll never leave Russia
  • Griner’s supporters have encouraged a prisoner swap like the one in April that brought home Marine veteran Trevor Reed in exchange for a Russian convict
  • Russian news media have repeatedly raised speculation that she could be swapped for Russian arms trader Viktor Bout, nicknamed ‘the Merchant of Death’
  • Griner went on trial Friday, 4 1/2 months after her arrest on charges of possessing cannabis oil while returning to play for a Russian club team
  • She is considered by the US government to be wrongfully detained  
  • Imprisoned WNBA star Brittney Griner is pleading with President Joe Biden to help her and other American detainees escape Russia.

    In her first public message since being arrested on drug charges at Moscow’s airport in February, Griner begged Biden for her freedom and expressed fear for that she might not ever leave.

    ‘…as I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey, or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever,’ Griner wrote in a letter to Biden.

    Imprisoned WNBA star Brittney Griner is pleading with President Joe Biden to help her and other American detainees escape Russian detention. Griner went on trial Friday, 4 1/2 months after her arrest on charges of possessing cannabis oil while returning to play for a Russian team, in a case that has unfolded amid tense relations between Moscow and Washington

    Imprisoned WNBA star Brittney Griner is pleading with President Joe Biden to help her and other American detainees escape Russian detention. Griner went on trial Friday, 4 1/2 months after her arrest on charges of possessing cannabis oil while returning to play for a Russian team, in a case that has unfolded amid tense relations between Moscow and Washington

    Standing 6-foot-9, Griner has towered over her Russian prison guards since being arrested

    Standing 6-foot-9, Griner has towered over her Russian prison guards since being arrested 








    The letter was not released publicly, but exerts were provided to DailyMail.com by a spokesman at Wasserman, the agency that represents Griner.

    The 6-foot-9 Phoenix Mercury star also referenced her father, a retired Houston sheriff who served in marines.

    ‘On the 4th of July, our family normally honors the service of those who fought for our freedom, including my father who is a Vietnam War Veteran,’ she continued. ‘It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year.

    ‘I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other American Detainees,’ Griner wrote. ‘Please do all you can to bring us home. I voted for the first time in 2020 and I voted for you.

    ‘I believe in you. I still have so much good to do with my freedom that you can help restore. I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my teammates! It kills me to know they are suffering so much right now. I am grateful for whatever you can do at this moment to get me home.’

    Griner's letter was sent to Biden, who has not indicated if he's willing to do a prisoner swap

    Griner’s letter was sent to Biden, who has not indicated if he’s willing to do a prisoner swap








    Griner went on trial Friday, 4 1/2 months after her arrest on charges of possessing cannabis oil while returning to play for a Russian team, in a case that has unfolded amid tense relations between Moscow and Washington.

    The initial session of the trial, which was adjourned until July 7, offered the most extensive public interaction between Griner and reporters since the Phoenix Mercury center and two-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist was arrested in February at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport.

    Griner, 31, was escorted into the courtroom in the capital’s suburb of Khimki while handcuffed, carrying a water bottle and what appeared to be a magazine, and wearing a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt.

    Police have said she was carrying vape canisters with cannabis oil when detained at the airport. She could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted of large-scale transportation of drugs.

    The state-owned Tass news agency quoted Griner as saying in court that she understood the charges against her. Asked by the judge if she wanted to enter a plea, Griner responded, ‘At this moment, no, your honor. At a later date,’ according to Mediazona, an independent news site known for its extensive coverage of high-profile court cases.

    Fewer than 1 percent of defendants in Russian criminal cases are acquitted, and unlike in U.S. courts, acquittals can be overturned.








    Two witnesses were questioned by the prosecution: an airport customs official, who spoke in open court, and an unidentified witness in a closed session, according to the state news agency RIA-Novosti. The trial was then adjourned, it said, when two other witnesses did not show up.

    Alexander Boykov, an attorney for Griner, said outside court that he did not want to comment ‘on the specifics of the case and on the charges’ because it was too early to do so.

    Boykov also told RIA-Novosti that she has been exercising and taking walks in the detention area. The Russian website Business FM said that Griner, who smiled at times at reporters, said she wishes she could work out more and that she was struggling because she doesn’t understand Russian. Besides the WNBA’s Mercury, she played in Russia for UMMC Ekaterinburg.

    Elizabeth Rood, deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, was in court and said she spoke with Griner, who ‘is doing as well as can be expected in these difficult circumstances.’

    ‘The Russian Federation has wrongfully detained Brittney Griner,’ Rood said. ‘The practice of wrongful detention is unacceptable wherever it occurs and is a threat to the safety of everyone traveling, working, and living abroad.’

    US basketball star Brittney Griner arrives to hearing in Khimki court outside Moscow on Monday June 27

    US basketball star Brittney Griner arrives to hearing in Khimki court outside Moscow on Monday June 27

    A fan holds up a sign urging other fans to call and pressure the White House to free seven-time WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner from Russian custody during the second half of a WNBA basketball game between the New York Liberty and the Seattle Storm

    A fan holds up a sign urging other fans to call and pressure the White House to free seven-time WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner from Russian custody during the second half of a WNBA basketball game between the New York Liberty and the Seattle Storm

    Griner was seen putting her belongings through a scanner at the travel hub

    Griner was seen putting her belongings through a scanner at the travel hub 

    She said the U.S. government, from its highest levels, ‘is working hard to bring Brittney and all wrongfully detained U.S. nationals home safely.’

    At a closed-door preliminary hearing Monday, Griner’s detention was extended for another six months, to December 20.

    Her case comes at an extraordinarily low point in Moscow-Washington relations. Griner was arrested less than a week before Russia sent troops into Ukraine, which aggravated already high tensions between the two countries. The U.S. then imposed sweeping sanctions on Moscow, and Russia denounced the U.S. for sending weapons to Ukraine.

    Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Friday denied politics played a role in Griner’s detention and prosecution.

    ‘The facts are that the famous athlete was detained in possession of prohibited medication containing narcotic substances,’ Peskov told reporters. ‘In view of what I’ve said, it can’t be politically motivated,’ he added.

    Griner’s supporters had kept a low profile in hopes of a quiet resolution until May, when the State Department reclassified her as wrongfully detained and shifted oversight of her case to its special presidential envoy for hostage affairs – effectively the U.S. government’s chief negotiator.

    Moments later, airport staff were seen putting one of her belongings into an envelope, then sealing it up

    Moments later, airport staff were seen putting one of her belongings into an envelope, then sealing it up 

    Griner's wife, Cherelle (pictured), has urged President Joe Biden to secure her release

    Griner’s wife, Cherelle (pictured), has urged President Joe Biden to secure her release

    Russian news media have repeatedly raised speculation that she could be swapped for Russian arms trader Viktor Bout (pictured in 2008), nicknamed 'the Merchant of Death,' who is serving a 25-year sentence on conviction of conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and providing aid to a terrorist organization

    Russian news media have repeatedly raised speculation that she could be swapped for Russian arms trader Viktor Bout (pictured in 2008), nicknamed ‘the Merchant of Death,’ who is serving a 25-year sentence on conviction of conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and providing aid to a terrorist organization 

    Griner’s wife, Cherelle, has urged President Joe Biden to secure her release, calling her ‘a political pawn.’

    ‘It was good to see her in some of those images, but it’s tough. Every time’s a reminder that their teammate, their friend, is wrongfully imprisoned in another country,’ Phoenix Mercury coach Vanessa Nygaard said Monday.

    Griner’s supporters have encouraged a prisoner swap like the one in April that brought home Marine veteran Trevor Reed in exchange for a Russian pilot convicted of drug trafficking conspiracy.

    Russian news media have repeatedly raised speculation that she could be swapped for Russian arms trader Viktor Bout, nicknamed ‘the Merchant of Death,’ who is serving a 25-year sentence on conviction of conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and providing aid to a terrorist organization.

    Griner's agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas, pictured, says her client is being used as a 'political pawn'

    Griner’s agent Lindsay Kagawa Colas, pictured, says her client is being used as a ‘political pawn’

    Russia has agitated for Bout’s release for years. But the wide discrepancy between Griner’s case – which involves alleged possession of vape cartridges containing cannabis oil – and Bout’s global dealings in deadly weapons could make such a swap unpalatable to the U.S.

    Others have suggested that she could be traded along with Paul Whelan, a former Marine and security director serving a 16-year sentence on an espionage conviction that the U.S. has repeatedly described as a setup.

    A week ago, Griner’s agent also begged the Biden administration to step up their efforts, while reminding followers that she believes the WNBA star is a political prisoner. 

    ‘The negotiation for her immediate release regardless of the legal proceedings should remain a top priority and we expect @POTUS and @VP to do everything in their power, right now, to get a deal done to bring her home,’ tweeted Lindsay Kagawa Colas, Griner’s agent.

    ‘The fact remains that the US Government has determined that Brittney Griner is wrongfully detained and being used as a political pawn.’

    Griner's agent called for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to 'do everything in their power, right now, to get a deal done to bring her home.' The basketball star's detention was extended another six weeks and she has been ordered to stay imprisoned during her criminal trial, which starts on July 1

    Griner’s agent called for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to ‘do everything in their power, right now, to get a deal done to bring her home.’ The basketball star’s detention was extended another six weeks and she has been ordered to stay imprisoned during her criminal trial, which starts on July 1