Two-time US Olympic basketball gold medalist Brittney Griner has pleaded guilty to drug charges in a Russian court near Moscow, her lawyers confirmed to CNN on Thursday.
Griner, 31, faces up to 10 years in prison under the charge. She left the courtroom without giving any comment to reporters, and her next hearing is set for July 14.
Griner 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.
The US State Department has classified Griner as wrongfully detained, and her supporters have called for her release over fears that she is being used as a political pawn amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Griner’s plea came on the second day of her trial, which began last week, when a prosecutor accused her of smuggling less than a gram of cannabis oil in her luggage. According to state media agency TASS, prosecutors argue Griner intended to import the drugs into Russia’s territory and put the prohibited substances into a backpack and a suitcase.
On Wednesday, the White House announced President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke by phone with Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner.
Cherelle Griner was “grateful” for the call from Biden and Harris, she said in a statement Wednesday.
“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,” she said. “I know BG will be able to find comfort in knowing she has not been forgotten.”