Basketball star Brittney Griner, who was arrested in February for allegedly trying to bring vape cartridges through a Moscow airport, pleaded guilty to drug charges in a Russian court on Thursday, July 7.
"I'd like to plead guilty, your honor. But there was no intent. I didn't want to break the law," she said in court, Reuters reported. "I'd like to give my testimony later. I need time to prepare."
One day earlier, Russia's Foreign Ministry said that the athlete, 31, would have the ability to appeal her verdict or apply for clemency. The Foreign Ministry disputed claims that she was wrongfully detained in mid-February.
"The court must first deliver its verdict, but no one is stopping Brittney Griner from making use of the appeal procedure and also from requesting clemency," a spokesperson for the ministry said, adding that "attempts to present her case as though the American woman was illegally detained do not stand up to criticism."
Rebekah Koffler, a Russian-born former U.S. intelligence officer, told Fox News Digital that she didn't think Vladimir Putin would grant Griner clemency. "Putin and the Kremlin want to exchange Brittney Griner for Viktor Bout, the ‘Merchant of Death,’ no one else. They will drag on the entire process, including appeal, simply as a negotiating tool to get what they want out of the Biden administration," she said.
"Bottom line, Putin will use Ms. Griner for his negotiating leverage in a prisoner swap case or something else. The more news this case makes here in the U.S., stirring emotions, the deeper the Russians will dig in their heels, demanding exchange for Bout or some other concessions. They know our hot buttons," she added.
“The President called Cherelle to reassure her that he is working to secure Brittney’s release as soon as possible, as well as the release of Paul Whelan and other US nationals who are wrongfully detained or held hostage in Russia and around the world,” the White House said in a statement. “He also read her a draft of the letter the President is sending to Brittney Griner today.”