Accused Russian Spy Clarifies Request for School Records

Maria Butina, leader of a pro-gun organization in Russia, speaks to a crowd during a rally in support of legalizing the possession of handguns in Moscow, Russia on Sunday, April 21, 2013.(AP Photo)

WASHINGTON (CN) – Accused Russian agent Maria Butina urged a federal judge Friday to allow her to seek information from the university she attended that she claims will help her evaluate the government’s case against her.

The request came in a 3-page motion filed in response to an Oct. 5 order quashing subpoenas for information her attorneys requested from American University. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan said Butina’s attorneys failed to follow proper criminal procedure regarding subpoenas.

Butina’s attorneys want student rosters for classes Butina attended at the university and campus police reports students filed about Butina, which they say will help identify potential witnesses for trial and prove she was a student and not a foreign agent.

Her attorneys also requested information concerning comments one of Butina’s professors made to the media, in which she implicated the accused Russian operative of taking part in the Trump campaign’s communications with Russia.

Although Chutkan quashed the subpoenas, she gave Butina’s defense team one week to file another motion clarifying who should be subpoenaed, whether the requested material should be given to the court or the defense, and whether the request satisfies criminal rules of procedure.

On Friday, McGlinchey Stafford attorney Alfred Carry defended Butina’s request for the information, saying “the production of the requested documents is necessary for the fair evaluation of the government’s case and is available through no other means than subpoena.”

Carry said American University can challenge any subpoena but also bears responsibility for notifying affected students or parents under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, prior to complying with the subpoena.

However, Carry suggested the law does not protect student records from disclosure or require a “heightened showing of good cause before a court can compel production of student records.”

Students had previously balked at the subpoenas, citing privacy interests under FERPA and asking the court to quash them, calling compliance with the request for student rosters “unreasonable and oppressive.”

But Carry said FERPA permits disclosure of student records in response to a judicial order or subpoena.

“Student consent is not required when a judicial order or subpoena requires production of records, only notice from the institution,” Butina’s motion says.

Carry said the documents should be delivered to the court, with copies made available to attorneys for both parties.

Butina, 29, has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to act as a foreign agent and acting as a foreign agent. Federal prosecutors say she built relationships with influential U.S. political groups and politicians as part of an effort to advance the Kremlin’s long-term agenda ahead of the 2016 election.

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