Brittney Griner pleaded guilty Thursday in a Russian court on drug charges that have led the U.S. government to classify her as "wrongfully detained."
Reuters reported from the courtroom that Griner entered a guilty plea. She could face a sentence of up to 10 years, while pressure from her supporters at home calling for her release grows.
Griner, speaking Thursday on the second day of her trial in a suburb of Moscow, has been in Russian custody since Feb. 17.
"I'd like to plead guilty, your honor. But there was no intent. I didn't want to break the law," Griner said in English, per Reuters, which was then translated into Russian for the court.
Griner is due back in court next Thursday, Reuters reported. Her guilty plea is unlikely to change much, as her pre-trial detention had been extended last Monday for an additional six months. The trial could last that long, and there's a near certainty a predetermined outcome has already been decided at a higher level, Russian legal expert Jamison Firestone told USA TODAY.
Griner's legal team in Russia, Maria Blagovolina and Alexander Boykov, released a statement Thursday:
"Considering the nature of her case, the insignificant amount of the substance and BG’s personality and history of positive contributions to global and Russian sport, the defense hopes that the plea will be considered by the court as a mitigating factor and there will be no severe sentence," they said.
The attorneys also said they expect the trial to conclude in early August.
"Brittney sets an example of being brave," the statement said. "She has decided to take full responsibility for her actions as she knows that she is a role model for many people."
'I MIGHT BE HERE FOREVER': The latest: Brittney Griner's 'mind-numbing' trial resumed in Russia
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On Feb. 17, Russian authorities arrested Griner at an airport outside of Moscow for allegedly carrying hashish oil in vape cartridges. Her detainment was not revealed until weeks later – after Russia had invaded Ukraine and international tensions with the United States and the rest of the world escalated.
The U.S. classified Griner as "wrongfully detained" in May. On Wednesday, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris phoned Griner's wife, Cherelle Griner, who pushed for increased urgency to free Griner during national media appearances.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrote on Twitter that U.S. Embassy officials in Moscow again attended the trial and delivered a letter from Biden to Griner, who had previously written to the president over the July 4 weekend. In it, the seven-time WNBA All-Star and two-time Olympian wrote she was "terrified I might be here forever."
The WNBA players' union executive director Terri Carmichael Jackson said in a statement that with a 99% conviction rate, "Russia's process is its own. You can't navigate it or even understand it like our own legal system.
— WNBPA (@TheWNBPA) July 7, 2022
"What we do know is that the US State Department determined that Brittney Griner was wrongfully detained for a reason and will continue negotiating for her release ... the (Biden) administration needs to know that this powerful collective is behind them and supports whatever needs to be done to get BG, Paul Whelan, and other detained US nationals home right away."
Contributing: Associated Press
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Brittney Griner pleads guilty to drug charges in Russian court: report