WASHINGTON (CN) – Saying the law under which she has been charged is unconstitutional, accused Russian spy Maria Butina on Thursday asked a federal judge to dismiss the indictment filed against her in July.
In a 28-page filing on Thursday, Butina’s attorneys said the government is seeking to criminalize otherwise innocent conduct by charging her under a law that does not have clearly demarcated boundaries. The memorandum in support of the motion to dismiss also says the law is not clear on what type of conduct it makes illegal, setting people up to run afoul of the law without knowing it.
Butina’s attorneys, McGlinchey Stafford’s Robert Driscoll and Alfred Carry, challenge both the general constitutionality of the law and its constitutionality as applied to Butina specifically.
As for the general point, Butina claims the law is so broad that it would put into jeopardy a journalist who works in the United States for a foreign, state-owned media outlet or a priest who reports to the Vatican on his efforts to abolish the death penalty.
Butina is accused of working connections with American political groups like the National Rifle Association in an effort to further Russian interests in the United States.
“She is branded a foreign agent because she explained the complexities of American politics and shared her extraordinary affinity for American culture with family and friends back home,” the memo states. “She is alleged to be a Kremlin agent because she genuinely wanted peace and better diplomatic relations between her home country and the United States, as well as a future career in international relations – the logical next step having completed a master’s degree in a school of international service.”
As applied specifically to her, Driscoll and Carry argue the law is vague as to what conduct it outlaws and puts her and others at risk for arbitrary enforcement simply because of heighted tensions with Russia.
“Because nearly every foreign visitor (let alone every Washingtonian in the District) having a personal connection with some officer of an agency within a foreign government could run afoul of the government’s strained interpretation of section 951 by doing any act at the direction of that official, regardless of the legality of the underlying act and regardless of whether the official is then acting in that capacity, the decision to prosecute Maria because her home country happens to be Russia is exactly the kind of arbitrary enforcement that is constitutionally suspect,” the memo states.
Butina, who stands accused of conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government and acting as an agent of a foreign government, also argues the two charges against her overlap. After all, everybody who agrees to be a foreign agent in the United States must necessarily be guilty of agreeing to commit a crime against the United States, Butina argues.
A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to comment on the filing, citing department policy of not comment on ongoing litigation.