Brittney Griner, who was acquitted of drug charges in her Russian trial on Thursday, admitted to bringing marijuana into the country. However she said that she packed cannabis in a hurry and didn't intend to break any laws.
If convicted, the Phoenix Mercury Center and Olympic Medalist could be sentenced to up to 10 years imprisonment.
Griner made her second court appearance since the beginning of her trial last Friday. Griner was previously detained by a judge for the duration of her trial. Her lawyer stated that it could take up to two months. The defense will likely have to attend several hearings before it can proceed. Next Thursday is the date for another hearing.
Griner was detained on February 17, aEUR", a week before Russia invaded Ukraine. aEUR", after Sheremetyevo International Airport authorities found marijuana vape cartridges in Griner's luggage. Griner was there to play for a Russian team in the U.S. offseason. Many WNBA players use this time to supplement their income.
Prosecutors claim that Griner bought two cartridges containing 0.45 grams and 0.252 grams of hash oils for personal use prior to her trip. Two customs agents were present at Griner's airport inspection when Griner's bags were examined during last week's hearing.
#BrittneyGriner is silent as she enters the courtroom for Round 2. This time, there is no guard dog. pic.twitter.com/H4IQDq4pLg
Thursday's proceedings consisted mainly of testimony by the prosecution. Two witnesses were present at Griner's detention at the airport. Griner watched from a small corner of the courtroom while griner did not speak much.
Griner asked for a statement after the prosecution had closed its case. Griner entered her guilty plea, asking for more time to prepare additional testimony.
She said, "I would like plead guilty to the charges against me." "But I did not intend to break any Russian law. The cartridges ended up in my bag because I was too busy packing.
Griner's lawyers explained that today was her first opportunity to answer the charges against her. They also said she knew she was a role-model to many and felt it was important to admit to her mistakes. This is something they hope the judge will consider when ruling on her case. Next week, Griner's lawyers will present her defense and explain more of her actions.
According to the Biden administration, Griner was wrongfully detained in May. However, the Kremlin claims that Griner's arrest was politically motivated.
Thursday's hearing is occurring as the Biden administration faces increasing public pressure to release Griner, especially after Griner herself wrote a letter to the White House on July 4th asking for assistance.
Wednesday's announcement by the White House stated that President Obama had spoken with Griner's wife Cherelle, after being criticised for not doing so sooner. He also read to her a draft letter he intended to send that day. It reiterated its commitment to Griner and other American prisoners as a top priority.
After Thursday's proceedings, U.S. Deputy chief of Mission Elizabeth Rood informed reporters she had given Biden's letter Griner. Griner was able to talk with her again in courtroom
US EmbassyaEUR(tm), Elizabeth Rood, confirms that she delivered a letter from President Biden today to #BrittneyGriner in Moscow. From the courtroom, my best guess is that it played a part in GrineraEUR (tm)'s decision to plead guilty. Russia says no prisoner swap until after verdict. pic.twitter.com/buldueCMbP
"She stated that she is healthy, she can read books, and she is eating well," Rood said.
Washington and Moscow have been discussing a possible prisoner exchange involving Griner, a Russian national currently in U.S. custody. According to Russian state agency Tass, discussions have been ongoing about Viktor Bout (also known as the "Merchant of Death"), a notoriously convicted arms dealer.
According to Reuters, Russia's Deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said that it was difficult to exchange prisoners with America on Thursday. Referring to the letter Biden intended for Griner, Ryabkov said that the "hype" surrounding the case is not helpful and that "this type of correspondence does nothing to help."
Russia stated that there won't be any prisoner swaps until a verdict has been reached.
Maynes reported from Russia. Treisman reported in Washington, D.C.