Maria Butina: Russian secret agent who conspired to infiltrate NRA jailed for 18 months

The Russian agent will be deported immediately following her prison sentence

Chris Riotta
New York
Friday 26 April 2019 17:19 BST
Maria Butina's attorney: 'She has made no attempts to flee'

Maria Butina has been sentenced to 18 months over charges she failed to register as a foreign agent.

The Russian gun rights activist requested to be deported and agreed to cooperate with US prosecutors, who her attorneys accused of “sandbagging” her with accusations of espionage when requesting the 18-month prison sentence.

Butina was the first Russian operative to be charged and convicted in the US over attempts to influence American policy amid the 2016 presidential election, the Washington Post reported.

The Russian agent was not charged with espionage, though she acknowledged she worked under ex-Kremlin official Alexander Torshin in an effort to build relationships with Americans capable of influencing US politics. The tactic is a typical strategy Russians use to intervene in foreign affairs, according to US intelligence experts.

Her case was not handled by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office, but instead by the US attorney’s office in Washington.

Butina has already served nine months in a US prison and is expected to serve nine more, though she could be released early for good behaviour.

She pleaded guilty last year to covertly gathering intelligence, claiming she was “ashamed and embarrassed” by her actions.

US District Judge Tanya Chutkan ordered Butina deported immediately following her prison sentence.

Paul Erickson, an influential Republican adviser with whom Butina was found to have a romantic relationship with, was also indicted in February in an unrelated case involving investment fraud.

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His attorney has claimed he “has never done anything to hurt our country and never would.”

Butina’s lawyers also defended her against accusations of anti-American conduct, claiming she’s not “a spy in any sense” and adding “the government knows that.”

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