Posted April 26, 2019, 12:31 pm CDT
Maria Butina. Photo from Shutterstock.com.
Maria Butina was sentenced to 18 months in prison Friday for conspiring to be a Russian agent in the U.S. without registering with the Justice Department.
The Russian gun rights activist pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in December to conspiring with a senior Russian official to access the National Rifle Association and other groups until she was arrested in July. She will be credited for the nine months she has already served and deported to Russia after her prison term ends. NPR, the Washington Post, CNN and Rolling Stone have coverage.
According to her plea deal, Butina claimed she worked for several years on a scheme to establish “unofficial lines of communications” with Americans who could influence U.S. politics under the direction of former Russian government official Alexander Torshin, according to the Washington Post.
Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected Butina’s argument that her intelligence work stemmed from her ambition to bring peace between the United States and Russia, saying that Butina’s participation was “not a simple misunderstanding by an overeager foreign student,” Rolling Stone says.
Chutkan said Butina engaged in work that was “sophisticated” and “dangerous,” according to CNN.
Butina said she “harmed the American people” by failing to register as a foreign agent, NPR reports. She also said in court that she would have registered if she knew it was required.
“Now I beg for mercy, and the chance to go home and restart my life,” she said before sentencing.
Butina was the first Russian national convicted of seeking to influence the 2016 election, but her case was separate from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. It was instead handled by the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Columbia and the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
Her boyfriend, longtime GOP fundraiser and NRA supporter Paul Erickson, assisted in her outreach to Republicans, including Donald Trump’s campaign, and faces federal investment fraud charges in a another case, NPR reports.
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