Griner, who the US State Department has classified as wrongfully detained, faces up to 10 years in prison on the charge. Supporters of the Phoenix Mercury player have called for her release over fears she will be used as a political pawn amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Griner’s lawyers expect the court to consider the 31-year-old athlete’s guilty plea and hope for leniency, Alexander Boykov and Maria Blagovolina told reporters Thursday.

Samples taken from Griner showed no trace of drugs, Boykov added. “She was clean and she was tested,” the attorney said.

It was her decision to plead guilty, Griner’s Russian legal team said in a statement, adding that she is “setting an example of courage.”

“She has decided to take full responsibility for her actions because she knows she is a role model for many people,” their statement read.

“Given the nature of his case, the insignificant amount of BG’s substance and personality, and his positive contributions to world and Russian sport, the defense hopes that the plea will be considered by the court as a mitigating and that there will be no serious sentence.”

His lawyers said they expect the trial to end around the beginning of August.

Griner left the courtroom Thursday without making any comments to reporters. His next hearing is set for July 14.

Griner was arrested in February at a Moscow airport after Russian officials said they found cannabis oil in her luggage. The basketball star, who plays in Russia during the WNBA offseason, has since been detained for drug trafficking. His trial began last week.

Griner told the court on Thursday that she did not intend to commit a crime, state news agency RIA Novosti reported. Griner had no intention of carrying drugs in her luggage, she said through an interpreter, and that was the result of packing her in a hurry, according to the report.

The decision to plead guilty was made by Griner alone, a source close to her said. But in recent weeks, Griner, his family, lawyers and experts had discussed the decision at length. Given the reported 99% conviction rate in Russian criminal cases, Griner was asked to weigh all the factors, including a plea that could ultimately result in a shorter sentence.

Some have speculated that Griner could be freed and returned to the United States in a prisoner exchange, much like Trevor Reed, an American veteran held in Russia for three years before his release in April.

There is no indication that such a trade is imminent in Griner’s case.

Yet before any potential prisoner exchange, it was expected that Griner would be convicted and also admit wrongdoing, a senior US official told CNN. Reed had to sign a document declaring him guilty – something he had resisted for most of his detention – just days before he was released, the official said.

“This is part of the show and the document has no legal force or effect in the United States. It effectively makes no sense,” Reed family spokesman Jonathan Franks said.

Griner’s plea came on the second day of her trial, in which a prosecutor accused her of smuggling less than a gram of cannabis oil in her luggage. Prosecutors say Griner intended to import the drugs into Russian territory and put the banned substances in a backpack and suitcase, according to TASS, another state news agency.

Griner appreciates Biden’s letter, lawyer says

During Thursday’s hearing, a senior US diplomat handed Griner a letter that US President Joe Biden wrote to her in response to his July 4 letter in which she pleaded for Biden’s help. The U.S. Embassy in Moscow shared Biden’s letter with Griner during his trial, Chargé d’Affaires Elizabeth Rood said Thursday.

Griner appreciated Biden’s letter “like every citizen of every country would appreciate a personal letter from the president,” Boykov said.

On Wednesday, the White House announced that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke by phone with Griner’s wife. Cherelle Griner was “grateful” for the call, she said in a statement Wednesday.

Biden and Harris speak with Brittney Griner's wife

“While I remain concerned and candid until (Brittney Griner) returns home, I am hopeful to know that the President read my wife’s letter and took the time to respond,” she said. “I know BG can take comfort knowing she hasn’t been forgotten.”

In the meantime, the U.S. government should “keep doing what it’s doing and exhaust every possible measure to help bring BG home,” Griner’s Mercury head coach Vanessa Nygaard told CNN on Thursday after his plea.

While the focus must be on getting Griner home safely, Nygaard also denounced a perceived double standard in the “lack of coverage and the value of women’s sport”.

“The question is, would Tom Brady be home?” said the coach. “But Tom Brady wouldn’t be there, would he, because he doesn’t have to go to a foreign country to supplement his WNBA income.”

A Wednesday rally for Griner hosted by the Mercury and U.S. Representative Greg Stanton’s office in Arizona was “really, really wonderful,” Nygaard said, adding that she was still concerned about Griner’s safety in Russia.

“In her letter (to Biden), she said she was scared,” the coach said. “She’s not just an ordinary American in another country, but she’s a person who represents our country well. She’s also a gay woman. She’s also a black woman in Russia. And we have to lend attention and help bring her home.”

CNN’s Kylie Atwood contributed to this report.

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