Russian Maria Butina gets 18 months for being unregistered foreign agent – Butina admitted to covertly gathering intelligence on the NRA

In this April 21, 2013 file photo, Maria Butina, leader of a pro-gun organization in Russia, speaks to a crowd during a rally in support of legalizing the possession of handguns in Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/File)

By ASHRAF KHALIL and CHAD DAY,  Associated Press  WASHINGTON (AP) 04/26 — In a quivering voice, Maria Butina begged for leniency Friday as she awaited sentencing on charges of being a secret agent for Russia. She cast herself as an innocent caught up in a massive geopolitical power game.

But a federal judge sentenced her to 18 months in prison followed by deportation. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan sided with prosecutors, who said the 30-year-old Russian deliberately obscured her true purposes while developing backdoor contacts inside the American conservative movement to advance the interests of Russia.

The sentence can be appealed and Butina will get credit for her time in jail since her high-profile arrest in July 2018. The case garnered intense media coverage amid speculation over the extent of Russian interference in American politics.

Butina admitted last year to covertly gathering intelligence on the National Rifle Association and other groups at the direction of a former Russian lawmaker. Her guilty plea to a single charge of conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent came as part of a deal with prosecutors.

This Friday, Aug. 17, 2018 photo provided by the Alexandria, Va., Detention Center shows Maria Butina. (Alexandria Detention Center via AP)

 

At Friday’s sentencing hearing, Butina appealed to Chutkan to release her with nine months of time served.

“My reputation is ruined, both here in the United States and abroad,” she said, asking for “a chance to go home and restart my life.”

Chutkan, however, fully followed the government’s recommendation and sentenced Butina to an additional nine months, before being deported.

The judge said the sentence was meant “to reflect the seriousness of (Butina’s actions) and to promote deterrence.”

Butina’s lawyers decried the judgment as overly harsh; they had characterized Butina as a naive but ambitious international affairs student who didn’t realize her actions required her to register as an agent of a foreign government.

“I feel terrible for Maria’s family…I wish we could have done more to get her out sooner,” said attorney Robert Driscoll. “I do not believe an additional nine months in jail serves any purpose.”

A Russian Foreign Ministry statement claimed that Butina was being punished, “just for being a Russian citizen. She became a victim of tough rivalry between various US political forces and an unbridled anti-Russian campaign in the spirit of McCarthyism.”

Leonid Slutsky, chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of the Russian parliament, said the case was “political and fabricated from air poisoned with Russophobia.”

“It is necessary to continue the fight, to file an appeal and to do everything in our power for Maria Butina to return to Russia as soon as possible,” Slutsky was quoted as saying by state news agency Tass.

According to her plea agreement, Butina worked with former Russian lawmaker Alexander Torshin to use their contacts in the NRA to pursue back channels to American conservatives during the 2016 presidential campaign. She did not report her activities to the U.S. government as required by law.

Robert Driscoll, Maria Butina’s attorney speaks to reporters outside the federal court in Washington, Friday, April 26, 2019, following the sentencing of his client. Butina, a Russian gun-rights activist, was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Friday, by a federal judge after admitting she secretly worked for the Kremlin to infiltrate conservative U.S. political groups. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Butina had faced a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Her case is unrelated to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, which concluded last month.

A statement from the U.S. attorney’s office stated that Butina was guilty of acting as an unregistered “agent of a foreign government.”

“There is no doubt she was not simply a grad student at American University,” said prosecutor Erik Kenerson.

However, defense attorneys repeatedly disputed the use of the word “agent,” saying it brought a sinister connotation that Butina’s true actions do not merit.

“Maria was not a spy,” said defense attorney Afred Carry. “Her agenda was better relations between Russia and the United States… Maria never stole any documents or bribed any officials.”

Chutkan, in her sentencing comments, read extensively from a declaration by Robert Anderson Jr., former assistant director of the FBI’s counterterrorism office.

“She was not simply seeking to learn about the U.S. political system,” Chutkan quoted Anderson as writing. Instead, she worked specifically to obscure her true agenda and “to gather information and develop relationships that could be used to Russia’s advantage.”

However, at times the judge seemed to sympathize with Butina — noting that she appeared to be a diligent student who earned high marks at American University and who supplied dozens of letters vouching for her character from friends, family and professors.

“You are not the worst things you’ve ever done,” Chutkan told Butina. “You are a young woman. You are smart, you’re hard-working and you have a future ahead of you.”

___

Associated Press writer James Heintz in Moscow contributed to this report.

https://www.apnews.com/e997050bdd6b4932bce54db9555c49f4

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

Posted in: Arrests, Conspiracy, Courts & Trials, Espionage, Guilty Pleas, Illegal Activities, Intelligence Agencies, Judges, Prosecutors, Sentencing, U.S. Government

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

3 × two =

Terms of Use for Posting Comments

Terms of Use

This site (the “Site”) is operated and maintained by Law Enforcement Education Foundation, Corporation (“Company”). Throughout the Site, the terms “we”, “us” and “our” refer to Company.  The words “user,” “you” and “your” as used herein refer to you.

Please read these terms and conditions of use (“Terms of Use”) carefully before contributing content. If you do not agree to these Terms of Use, please do not contribute content. Your use of the Site is subject to the Terms and Conditions found here .

By contributing content to the Site, you represent and warrant that you are at least eighteen (18) years old and that you have read and understand these Terms of Use and any amendments thereto and agree to be bound by them. If you are not at least eighteen (18) years old or you do not agree and accept these Terms of Use, you are prohibited from contributing content.

From time to time, we may permit users to submit content to the Site.  You hereby acknowledge and agree that by submitting remarks, comments, suggestions, ideas, graphics, feedback, edits, concepts, comments, photographs, illustrations and other materials (other than personal information and/or registration information) through the Site (individually and collectively, “Submissions”), you (i) grant us a nonexclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, transferable, irrevocable and fully sub-licensable right to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, translate, distribute, publish, create derivative works from and publicly display and perform such Submissions throughout the world in any media, now known or hereafter created, without attribution to you; (ii) grant us the right to pursue at law any person or entity that violates your and/or our rights in your Submissions; and (iii) forever waive any and all of your rights, including but not limited to moral rights, if any, in and to your Submissions, including, without limitation, any all rights or requirements of attribution or identification of you as the author of the Submission or any derivative thereof.  We reserve the right to remove any of your Submissions from the Site, in whole or in part, without notice to you, for any reason or no reason.

Submissions are made voluntarily. Any submissions which include personally identifiable information are subject to our Privacy Policy found here .  You may not upload or otherwise publish content on the Site that (i) is confidential to you or any third party; (ii) is untrue, inaccurate, false or other than an original work of your authorship; (iii) that relates to or impersonates any other person; (iv) violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property rights of any person or entity; (v) contains any content, personally identifiable information or other information, or materials of any kind that relate or refer to any other person or entity other than the provider of the products, goods or services to which the Submission relates; or (vi) violates any law, or in any manner infringes or interferes with the rights of others, including but not limited to the use of names, information, or materials that (A) libel, defame, or invade the privacy of any third party, (B) are obscene or pornographic, (C) are harmful, threatening, offensive, abusive, harassing, vulgar, false or inaccurate, racially, sexually, ethnically or are otherwise objectionable or otherwise contrary to the laws of any place where such Submissions may be accessed; (D) constitute personal attacks on other individuals; (E) promote criminal, immoral or illegal activity; (F) promote or advertise any person, product or service or solicit funds; or (G) are deemed confidential by any contract or policy.

You are solely responsible for any Submissions you make and their accuracy. We take no responsibility and assume no liability for any Submissions posted by you or any third party.

Unless approved by us in writing in advance, you agree not to: (i) provide or create a link to the Site; or (ii) create any frames at any other sites pertaining to any of the content located on the Site.

We reserve the right, in our discretion, to update, change or replace any part of these Terms of Use for Posting Comments by posting updates and/or changes to our Site.  It is your responsibility to check this page periodically for changes.  Your continued use of, and/or access to the Site, following the posting of any changes to these Terms of Use for Posting Comments, constitutes your acceptance of those changes.