WNBA star Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges in Russian court Thursday, Reuters reported.
The Phoenix Mercury center has been detained in Russia since February for alleged possession of hashish oil and faces up to 10 years in prison for charges of “large-scale transportation of drugs.” She told a judge Thursday she had done so “inadvertently” and asked the court for mercy, ESPN reported.
“I’d like to plead guilty, your honor,” Griner said. “But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law.”
Even after the guilty plea, the trial could continue for weeks or even months, according to ESPN. Thursday marked the second day of the trial, which began on July 1. The next court hearing is scheduled for July 14.
Sources told ESPN the guilty plea was a strategy to help pave the way for a prisoner swap to bring Griner home. The plea also showed recognition of the impossible odds she faces in the Russian criminal court, which legal experts have described as “theater,” according to ESPN.
More than 99 percent of Russian court cases result in a conviction.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Thursday that exchanging prisoners with the United States is difficult and suggested the U.S. government should stop talking about Griner, Reuters reported.