WNBA star Brittney Griner has pleaded guilty to drugs charges in a Russian court and could face prison time if convicted.
According to the news wire, which had a journalist present, Brittney said, "I'd like to plead guilty, your honor. But there was no intent. I didn't want to break the law."
She reportedly added, "I'd like to give my testimony later. I need time to prepare."
The athlete, who plays for a Russian basketball team during the WNBA's off-season, was arrested in February at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport for allegedly possessing vape cartridges containing cannabis oil. She is charged with smuggling of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances, their precursors or analogues, and with illegal acquisition, storage, transportation, manufacture, processing of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances or their analogues.
Brittney pleaded guilty to all charges, one of her lawyers, Maria Blagovolina, told NBC News.
She said in a statement, "We expect leniency of the court, taking into account all the circumstances of the case and taking into account the personality of our client."
Brittney's other lawyer, Alexander Boikov, told the outlet after the hearing that the basketball star admitted that the vape canisters were hers, but she brought them to Russia unintentionally.
Brittney appeared in the courtroom wearing glasses, a red t-shirt and red pants. She was led inside in handcuffs before being placed in a white metal cage, NBC News reported. Three U.S. embassy representatives, her lawyers and a few journalists attended the session. The next court hearing is scheduled for July 14.
The charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Reuters reported that the Russian foreign ministry has said Brittney could appeal her sentence or apply for clemency once a verdict has been delivered.
U.S. State Department considers Brittney to be "wrongfully detained." The Phoenix Mercury player recently wrote to U.S. President Joe Biden to try to boost U.S. efforts to bring her home, saying she was "terrified I might be here forever."
Brittney's wife, Cherelle Griner has also been rallying behind the athlete and communicating with U.S. officials to try to secure her freedom. On July 6, the day before she made her plea, Biden gave Cherelle an update by phone "to reassure her that he is working to secure Brittney's release as soon as possible" and to read her a draft of a letter he was sending.
After Brittney's July 7 hearing, U.S. Embassy Moscow Charge d'Affaires Elizabeth Rood said in a statement to NBC News that she shared the letter from the President with Brittney. The basketball player, she said, is "eating well," "able to read books" and "under the circumstances, she's doing well."
Rood added, "I would like again to emphasize the commitment of the United States government, at the very highest levels, to bring home safely Ms. Griner and all U.S. citizens wrongfully detained, as well as the commitment of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to care for and protect the interests of all U.S. citizens detained or imprisoned in Russia."
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