During an exclusive interview on NewsNation’s “Banfield,” Billy Hayes, who spent five years in a Turkish prison for drug smuggling, shared advice for Griner. He said the mentality she uses to succeed as an athlete will be invaluable as she navigates this situation.
“If you can keep a control on yourself, it puts perspective on things,” Hayes said. But he knows that’s much easier said than done.
In 1970, Hayes was arrested at an airport in Turkey while carrying four pounds of hashish. He was given a life sentence.
Five years after his arrest, with no movement on the diplomatic side, Hayes escaped back to the United States as a fugitive. He later wrote an autobiography, “Midnight Express,” which adapted into an Academy Award-winning film of the same name in 1978.
His story, he told NewsNation, has similarities to that of Griner’s. She was arrested in February at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport after vape cartridges with hashish oil were allegedly found in her luggage.
“Unfortunately, I can relate. The beginning of this process is something that she inadvertently got into,” Hayes said. “I know she had some hashish oil in her bag. It’s for her own personal use, and she had a prescription for this. Unfortunately, that doesn’t really matter in a lot of foreign countries because laws are different. You need to discover the differences quickly, or you end up in a very bad place.”
Hayes said he thinks that Russia would like to bring Griner home because the world is watching.
“We should be emphasizing that we are watching. Hopefully, now that her sentence is going to be finished, all the legal ramifications that take forever in any country, but especially a foreign country,” Hayes said.
Hayes said he hopes Brittney will focus on the victories, no matter how big or small.
“It looks awful from the inside, but to know there are people on the outside who care and are working for you, that will help a lot.”