Brittney Griner Pleads Guilty to Drug Charges in Russian Court

Women’s basketball star Brittney Griner has pleaded guilty to drug charges in Russia on Thursday, her legal team confirmed, as her trial continues outside of Moscow.

via: CNN

Griner, whom the US State Department has classified as wrongfully detained, faces up to 10 years in prison under the charge.

The 31-year-old was arrested in February at a Moscow airport after Russian officials say they found cannabis oil in her luggage. The basketball star, who plays in Russia during the WNBA’s offseason, has been held since then on drug smuggling charges punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Her trial began last week.

Supporters of the Phoenix Mercury player have called for her release over fears she is being used as a political pawn amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Griner told the court Thursday she had not intended to commit a crime, state news agency RIA Novosti reported. Speaking through an interpreter, Griner said she had not meant to carry drugs in her luggage, and it was the result of her packing in a hurry, the report said.

Griner left the courtroom without giving any comment to reporters, and her next hearing is set for July 14.

The decision to plead guilty was made by Griner alone, a source close to her said. But in recent weeks, Griner, her family, lawyers and experts discussed this decision extensively. Given the 99% reported conviction rate in Russian criminal cases, Griner was urged to weigh all the factors, including a plea that could ultimately result in a shorter sentence.

Some have speculated Griner could be released and returned to the US in a prisoner swap, as was Trevor Reed, an American veteran who was detained in Russia for three years before being released in April.

There is no indication such a swap is imminent in Griner’s case.

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