US basketball star, Brittney Griner pleaded guilty on the second day of trial on accusations of alleged drug smuggling, Griner’s lawyers said Thursday, July 7.
While Griner pleaded guilty, she said she had no intent to commit a crime, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported Thursday.
Griner, 31, who has played in Russia during the Women’s National Basketball Association’s (WNBA) off-season, was arrested Feb. 17 at a Moscow airport, a week before Russia invaded Ukraine. Russian authorities claimed she had cannabis oil in her luggage and accused her of smuggling significant amounts of a narcotic substance, an offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The next hearing is to take place on July 14.
According to RIA Novosti, Griner told the court through her interpreter that she had no intent to carry luggage with hash oil but this was a result of her “packing up in a hurry.”
“Ms. Griner says she pleads guilty. She had no intent to carry drugs, no intent to commit a crime, as she was packing up [her luggage] in a hurry,” her interpreter said in court, RIA Novosti reported.
According to a source close to Griner, the decision to plead guilty was made by her alone. But in recent weeks, Griner, her family, lawyers and experts discussed this decision extensively saying a plea could ultimately result in a shorter sentence.
US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke by phone Wednesday with Brittney Griner’s wife, Cherelle. Griner wrote in a letter delivered to Biden on Monday that she is afraid that she could be detained in Russia indefinitely.
Asked by reporters outside the court if Griner can contact her wife, Griner’s lawyer Maria Blagovolina said, “This can be done in the form of a call. Unfortunately, due to the fact that Brittney now goes to the court, it is logistically difficult to arrange.”
Because Griner is either traveling to the court from her detention center north of Moscow or she is kept at the detention center in Khimki by the court, Blagovolina added that “we have not yet been able to organize it technically.”