Brittney Grinner pleaded guilty to drug smuggling charges in a Russian court on Thursday, four months after the WNBA star was detained at a Moscow-area airport for having vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage.
“I’d like to plead guilty, your honor,” Griner told the judge overseeing the case at a Thursday hearing (via Reuters). “But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law.”
Griner faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of “large-scale transportation of drugs”; the cartridges had 0.252 grams and 0.45 grams of hash oil, which is considered enough for personal use, prosecutors stated at a previous hearing.
Even though Griner pleaded guilty, the case is expected to continue for weeks and possibly even months: Another hearing is set for July 14, where Griner will provide testimony in regard to the allegations against her.
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Griner’s guilty plea comes days after the WNBA all-star and Olympian penned a handwritten letter to President Joe Biden asking him for help.
“Please do all you can to bring us home,” Griner wrote. “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.”
On Wednesday, Biden reached out to Griner’s wife Cherelle, reading her a letter he drafted in response. U.S. Embassy Charge d’Affaires Elizabeth Rood delivered that letter to Griner at Thursday’s hearing, NPR reports.
“President Biden has been clear about the need to see all US nationals who are held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad released, including Brittney Griner. The US government continues to work aggressively — using every available means — to bring her home,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson previously said in a statement. “The President’s team is in regular contact with Brittney’s family and we will continue to work to support her family.”
In regards to a possible prisoner exchange between the two embattled countries, Russian officials have previously stated that that would not occur until after there is a verdict in the Griner trial.
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