Admitted Russian Agent Maria Butina Sentenced to 18 Months in Conspiracy Case

Maria Butina

A federal judge in Washington D.C. sentenced Russian national Maria Butina on Friday to 18 months in prison, but credited her with nine months time served. That means the defendant has to spend nine more months behind bars.

Butina pleaded guilty in December to conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government, and she agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. She admittedly traveled to the United States so she could make connections with members of the Republican Party, and the National Rifle Association. Her handler was former politician Alexander Torshin, prosecutors said. They wanted to influence American politics on behalf of the Russian government, and do it in a way that could possibly hurt U.S. interests, authorities said.

Butina lawyer Alfred Carry told Judge Tanya Chutkan on Friday that his client did not work for the Russian government.

Butina said in court that she would’ve registered as a foreign agent if she knew she had to. Chutkan didn’t accept this framing of events.

The road here has been pretty messy. The case caught attention in part because of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, but also because of some of the salacious allegations against Butina.

Prosecutors, however, walked back their claim that she offered sex in exchange for political access. Her attorney Robert Driscoll called out the government last year for burying this on “page 19 of a 22-page brief filed near midnight.”

“Whatever the reason, it is nothing short of cowardice to make false proffers to much fanfare only to deny them later in a mere sentence or footnote,” he wrote.

Butina’s American boyfriend, Republican operative Paul Erickson, was implicated after prosecutors suggested she started her relationship with him to gain access to political figures. He wasn’t charged in this case, but is facing a separate one in a South Dakota federal court for financial crimes. Erickson pleaded not guilty.

[Image via STR/AFP/Getty Image]

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