UPDATE | Russian sentenced to 18 months for being agent for Kremlin
WASHINGTON (AP) — Maria Butina, a Russian who admitted to secretly working for the Kremlin to infiltrate conservative U.S. political groups, was sentenced today to 18 months in prison.
Butina has been jailed since her July 2018 arrest and had asked for a sentence of time served. But U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan imposed a sentence that would require Butina to spend an additional nine months behind bars, before being deported.
Judge Chutkan 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 simply 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 Atty. Robert Driscoll. "I do not believe an additional nine months in jail serves any purpose."
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 federal prosecutors.
According to her plea agreement, the 30-year-old 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. All the while, she did not report her activities to the U.S. government as required by law.
In court papers filed ahead of today's sentencing, Butina's lawyers argued she has taken responsibility for her crimes and should be credited for her cooperation with prosecutors, which they described as "full, transparent and complete."
They said Butina has suffered by being publicly branded as a "spy" and through her months in jail.
But prosecutors, in pushing for an 18-month sentence, said while Butina wasn't carrying out espionage in the "traditional sense," her actions still posed a risk.
WASHINGTON (AP) — A judge today imposed an 18-month prison term for a Russian gun-rights activist who tried to infiltrate American conservative groups.
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