MOSCOW — WNBA star Brittney Griner pleaded guilty Thursday to drug smuggling charges in Russia.
“I would like to plead guilty, your honor, but there was no intention,” Griner told a Moscow judge during the second hearing of his trial which began last week, according to The New York Times. “I didn’t want to break the law.
In February, officials at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport arrested Griner — a Phoenix Mercury center and two-time Olympic gold medalist, lesbian and married to his wife, Cherelle Griner, — after customs inspectors allegedly found hashish oil in his luggage. The State Department determined that Russia had “wrongfully detained” her.
Earlier this week, Brittney Griner pleaded directly with President Joe Biden to help secure his release. The White House on Tuesday received a letter signed by 1,200 black women urging the administration to bring Brittney Griner back to the United States
“The letter is support – support from a group of black women trying to save another black woman. It’s as simple as that,” Dawn Staley, a three-time Olympic gold medalist and head basketball coach at the University of South Carolina, told The Washington Post. “I think about Brittney all day, every day. I try to put myself in her shoes, and I want someone to fight for me – people who don’t shut up.
The Reverend Al Sharpton, founder and chairman of the National Action Network, also asked Biden on Tuesday to arrange a “prayer visit” for Brittney Griner.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke with Cherelle Griner on Wednesday.
The White House in a statement said Biden read Cherelle Griner his response to his wife’s letter. US Charge d’Affaires Elizabeth Rood told reporters outside court on Thursday that she had delivered the letter to Brittney Griner.
Brittney Griner faces up to 10 years in prison.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Thursday that his government would only negotiate Brittney Griner’s potential release with the United States after the court delivers its verdict.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, following Brittney Griner’s guilty plea, reiterated that the Biden administration remains committed to securing her release.
“We will not back down until Brittney, Paul Whelan and all other wrongfully detained Americans are reunited with their loved ones,” Blinken tweeted.
.@USEmbRu Officials attended Brittney Griner’s trial again today and presented her with a letter from President Biden. We will not back down until Brittney, Paul Whelan and all the other wrongfully detained Americans are reunited with their loved ones.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) July 7, 2022
Caris White contributed to this story.