WNBA star Brittney Griner told a Russian court Thursday that she didn’t intend to commit a crime, but in her rush to pack her luggage, she accidentally carried a small amount of cannabis oil.
The Phoenix Mercury standout then pleaded guilty to drug smuggling, which could land her as much as 10 years in prison.
She has been detained since February, and officials scheduled a July 14 court appearance for the now-convicted basketball player.
U.S. officials didn’t immediately comment.
Recently, there’s been a growing call for her release. Many observers have opined that Russia is using the 31-year-old as a political pawn.
It’s believed Russian President Vladimir Putin would free Griner if the United States did likewise for convicted arms dealer Victor Bout.
It’s unknown whether Griner’s guilty plea is part of an overall strategy to bring her home, with the thought of not dragging out the court case and lessening the spotlight.
On July 4, President Joe Biden received a letter from Griner pleading for his help getting her home. A day later, Cherelle Griner, the WNBA player’s wife, went on national television to express frustration that she hadn’t been in touch with the White House about Brittney.
On July 6, Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke with Cherelle Griner via telephone and reassured her that the administration is continuing to work to bring her loved one home.
“While I will remain concerned and outspoken until she is back home, I am hopeful in knowing that the President read my wife’s letter and took the time to respond,” Cherelle Griner said. “I know BG will be able to find comfort in knowing she has not been forgotten.”
Biden shared with Cherelle Griner a letter he planned to send to Brittney.