A Russian gun-rights activist and lobbyist was sentenced in a district court in Washington, DC, today to 18 months in prison after she pled guilty to one count of conspiring to act as a foreign agent without government registration.
The woman who became the subject of a media firestorm last year when she was arrested and publicly branded as a “Russian Spy” was sentenced to 18 months in prison today. She will receive credit for the 9 months she has already served, and she will be deported back to Russia immediately after she completes the rest of the sentence.
In a press conference following today’s hearing, her lawyer, Robert Driscoll said he believes the current political climate played a role in her sentence.
“I don’t think she’s in jail solely because of politics, but anyone who thinks that someone who wasn’t Russian would be in this situation is fooling themselves,” Driscoll said.
Maria Butina was born and raised in Russia, and came to the United States on a student visa in 2016 to attend American University in Washington, DC, as a graduate student.
She has been in federal custody since July, when she was arrested over accusations that she was working with political groups like the National Rifle Association, and creating connections for the purpose of using them to quote “advance Russian interests.”
According to her lawyers, Butina was placed in administrative segregation in November, which essentially keeps her in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, and prevents her from interacting with other prisoners.
In December, Butina pled guilty to one count of conspiring to act as a foreign agent without government registration, as part of a plea deal. She faced up to five years in prison and $250,000 dollars in fines.
The agreement stated that Butina was working with $125,000 dollars, which she planned to obtain from a Russian billionaire. And her goal was to quote “establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over U.S. politics.”
But despite the fact that Maria Butina was essentially charged with acting as a lobbyist without proper registration, the mainstream media has continued to brand her as a foreign spy with a direct line to the Russian government.
CNN even cited anonymous sources to claim that on at least two occasions while she was in college, Butina “got drunk and spoke openly about her contacts within the Russian government.
But Russia’s Foreign Ministry denied all of the claims and called the charges “totally unacceptable.” The media has yet to provide any proof of the alleged ties, and the Department of Justice is now admitting that the truth of the case is much less exciting than it has been portrayed.
The DOJ acknowledged that Butina is “neither a covert agent nor a trained intelligence officer. And the only crime she was accused of committing has nothing to do with stealing secrets, let alone engaging in ‘cloak-and-dagger activities.'”
While she will be forced to spend the next 9 months in jail, the case of the media’s red-headed Russian spy serves as yet another failed Russia-gate narrative. And the woman at the center of it will now be forced to seek recovery after months of solitary confinement—a harsh sentence that has left many questioning whether it fits the crime she committed.