United States

Accused Foreign Agent Asks for No Additional Prison Time After Sentencing

Maria Butina, an American University graduate student and gun rights activist, was accused by federal prosecutors of working as a covert and unregistered foreign agent for Russia

The woman who admitted to being a secret agent for the Russian government last year is asking to serve no additional prison time when she is sentenced April 26.

Maria Butina, the American University graduate student and gun rights activist who was accused by federal prosecutors of working as a covert and unregistered foreign agent for Russia, is asking for a time served sentence after her legal team says she has learned her lesson and served over nine months in three different detention centers.

Butina pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign official in December 2018 and was arrested in July after prosecutors said she used her contacts with the National Rifle Association and the National Prayer Breakfast to gather information for Russia.

Federal prosecutors also alleged that Butina used her enrollment at American University as a cover for her spying activities.

But Butina’s lawyer says she has “always been willing to cooperate with the government,” according to a sentencing memo submitted to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by her lawyer.

“Maria’s cooperation has been full, transparent, and complete. Yet, what makes her case especially noteworthy is that, as a young Russian national who has accepted that deportation will be part of the resolution of her case, Maria has willingly cooperated with the United States despite the geopolitical tension between the two countries,” the memo reads.

Butina’s lawyer also criticized the “public shame” and “embarrassment” Butina experienced when prosecutors alleged that she “traded sex for access” to political figures. Those prosecutors later backtracked that allegation in September.

“As the court is aware, subsequently withdrawn allegations made by the government in pleadings and open court fueled this negative coverage. And notwithstanding the government’s later acknowledgment of its errors and abandonment of certain assertions, that bell cannot be unrung,” Butina’s lawyer wrote. “In the age of the internet, these allegations, which resulted from this prosecution, will follow her wherever she goes.”

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