WNBA star Brittney Griner pleaded guilty in a Russian courtroom Thursday (July 7) to drug charges for which she now faces 10 years in prison.
"I'd like to plead guilty, your honor. But there was no intent. I didn't want to break the law,” the Phoenix Mercury Center and Olympic medalist told the court, according to Reuters.
"I'd like to give my testimony later. I need time to prepare," she added.
The trial began on July 1. At that initial court appearance, Griner did not enter a plea. She’s expected to make her next courtroom appearance on July 14.
Griner, 31, who had been in Russia playing for UMMC Yekaterinburg was arrested on Feb. 17 by the Russian Federal Customs Service at Sheremetyevo Airport near Moscow after agents said they discovered hashish oil vape cartridges in her luggage. She was charged with transporting a “significant amount,” or 0.702 grams, of cannabis oil, according to The Washington Post.
Griner’s arrest and detainment came amid tension escalating between former Cold War enemies over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. U.S. State Department officials have classified Griner as “wrongfully detained.” Many have said she’s being used as a political pawn and urged the White House to make a prisoner swap to secure her release.
Griner had recently penned an open letter to President Biden pleading for her freedom.
"I'm terrified I might be here forever," Griner wrote by hand from a Russian prison, according to CBS News, "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. It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year."
The White House has been under pressure to secure the basketball star’s release, including from Rev. Al Sharpton who asked the administration to arrange a clergy visit with Griner to check on her well-being.
Meanwhile the White House, in a statement sent out to the media on Wednesday, said that President Biden and Vice President Harris spoke with Griner’s wife, Cherelle.
“The President offered his support to Cherelle and Brittney’s family, and he committed to ensuring they are provided with all possible assistance while his administration pursues every avenue to bring Brittney home,” the statement said.
In addition, National Security Council Spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement: “President Biden has been clear about the need to see all U.S. nationals who are held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad released, including Brittney Griner. The U.S. government continues to work aggressively – using every available means – to bring her home.”