Legal Expert Unpacks Brittney Griner's Motive For Pleading Guilty - Exclusive

After months of detainment and legal issues in Russia, WNBA player Brittney Griner has pleaded guilty to the drug charges leveled against her in February. However, legal experts think this may have been a tactical move on her legal team's part.

Griner was first detained on February 17 in a Moscow airport. According to The New York Times, Russian authorities allege that a sniffer dog alerted them to the basketball player's bag. Authorities then searched the bag, and claim to have found several cannabis vape cartridges. Since May, Griner's case has been handled by the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs, per AP News. Their stance is that Griner has been wrongfully detained, and she has since sent President Joe Biden a desperate plea to bring her home.

In light of that, Griner's subsequent guilty plea has come as a shock to many following the case. However, it's worth noting that in her plea, Griner pointed out that she had not brought the cannabis oil into the country with criminal intent. As heard in courtroom audio obtained by CBS News, it was merely an oversight. "I was in a rush packing ... and the cartridges accidentally ended up in my bag," Griner said. Legal expert Joshua Ritter spoke exclusively to Nicki Swift and broke down why he thinks Griner pleaded guilty.

Differing laws make this case a tricky one

Many have questioned why Brittney Griner has pleaded guilty to the drug charges. However, defense attorney and former Los Angeles prosecutor Joshua Ritter pointed out that differing legal systems have likely played a major role. "Griner is dealing with a country that does not have the same due process as the United States," he explained. In fact, by pleading guilty, Griner's team probably made the best move they could. "[They] may have worked out a plea deal to give her a chance for a lower sentence," he added. Per Reuters, Griner's lawyer, Maria Blagovolina, has backed that very sentiment. She's said they're hoping for a moderate sentencing, given the crime was simply an act of "carelessness."

Ritter also claimed that pleading guilty may have been Griner's best shot, given the current tensions between the U.S. and Russia over the Ukraine crisis. He believes Russia may want to get the case closed as soon as possible. After all, "Russia knows this case is giving it bad press in the international media," he explained. However, he was also quick to caution that a swift case doesn't necessarily mean an easy one.

"It's hard to argue Griner is anything but a political pawn," he said. "Russia is going to squeeze as much political juice out of this as possible." Unfortunately, he concluded, "If that involves humiliating an American athlete before she's allowed to board a plane out of the country, I wouldn't put it past them." Here's hoping Griner's legal nightmare can come to an end sooner rather than later.