WNBA star Brittney Griner appears in Russian court after guilty plea

American basketball star Brittney Griner appeared in a Russian court Thursday, one week after the Phoenix Mercury center pleaded guilty to drug charges following an arrest in February.

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Authorities detained Griner, 31, at a Moscow airport on Feb. 17 after police said they found vape cartridges in her luggage that contained cannabis oil, The Associated Press reported. The two-time Olympic gold medalist was returning to the country to play for a Russian basketball team during the U.S. offseason, the AP and NPR reported.

Griner’s hearing ended Thursday without a sentence, according to CNN. She is expected to appear in court for another hearing on Friday.

In a statement released last week, Griner’s legal team said that they expect the trial to go on until the beginning of August. They added that their client “sets an example of being brave.”

“She decided to take full responsibility for her actions as she knows that she is a role model for many people,” the statement read.

“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.”

During a hearing last week, Griner said that she didn’t mean to break any laws when she mistakenly brought cannabis into the country, NPR reported.

“I was in a rush packing and the cartridges accidentally ended up in my bags,” she said, according to NPR.

She faces a maximum sentence of 10 years at a Russian penal colony, the New York Times reported.

Griner’s arrest, which came one week before Russia sent troops into Ukraine, sparked fears that her detainment could be politically motivated and prompted calls for her release from organizations like the Human Rights Campaign and the National Organization for Women, and figures including NBA star LeBron James. In May, the State Department classified Griner as having been wrongfully detained by Russia.

White House officials have vowed to work to bring back Griner and other detained Americans, including former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan.

“We will continue to work until those two unjustly detained Americans and all unjustly detained Americans and hostages are home safely,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday.

In a letter sent earlier this month, Griner urged President Joe Biden not to forget about detained Americans and to “please do all you can to bring us home,” according to the Times.

“I’m terrified I might be here forever,” she wrote.

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