Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) star Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to drug possession and smuggling in a Russian court.
The two-time Olympic gold medallist and All-star champion told the court the cannabis cartridges found in her luggage ended up there by mistake. Prosecutors said the cartridges have a “significant amount” of cannabis oil, though investigators found the amount was less than a gram.
“I’d like to plead guilty, your honor. But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law,” she said. “I was in a rush packing. And the cartridges accidentally ended up in my bag.”
Griner was arrested in February at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. Her trial began last week, and she faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.
President Joe Biden spoke with Griner’s wife on July 6, after receiving a handwritten letter pleading for United States intervention to secure her release.
“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.
“I miss my wife! I miss my family! I miss my teammates!” she said in her letter to Biden. “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.”
President Biden assured Griner’s wife he is doing everything he can to secure her release.
The United States Department of State classified her as “wrongly detained” and has been working behind the scenes with Moscow to bring her home.
U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said his agency will not relent until Griner and all “wrongfully detained Americans are reunited with their loved ones.”
.@USEmbRu officials again attended Brittney Griner’s trial today and delivered to her a letter from President Biden. We will not relent until Brittney, Paul Whelan, and all other wrongfully detained Americans are reunited with their loved ones.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) July 7, 2022
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told reporters at the courthouse, “The American side’s attempts to foment hype and make noise in the public environment are understandable, but they don’t help to practically resolve issues,” according to The Washington Post.
The trial is set to resume July 14.