Accused Russian Spy Thwarted in Bid for School Records

(CN) – A federal judge on Friday agreed to a request to quash subpoenas served on American University on behalf of accused Russian operative Maria Butina, finding Butina’s attorneys hadn’t followed proper procedure for the demand.

Mariia Butina in Moscow, in a photo she posted to Facebook in October 2013.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan’s minute order grants the request to quash without prejudice. Butina’s lawyers have seven days to file a motion stating who should be subpoenaed, whether the requested material satisfies the rules of criminal procedure, and whether the subpoenaed material should be delivered to the court or Butina’s attorneys.

Chutkan’s order comes after several unnamed American University students balked at Butina’s subpoenas, which they say they received in the mail. The subpoenas asked for student rosters for the classes Butina attended at the university, but gave no reason for the request.

The students cited privacy interests and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act as a basis to quash the subpoena, saying Butina’s attorney failed to show “good cause” for the information.

“Compliance with the subpoena would be unreasonable and oppressive,” the students said.

Butina’s lawyers defended their efforts to subpoena the students, claiming the information they seek will prove Butina was a legitimate student and the rosters will help find potential trial witnesses.

Prosecutors charged Butina, 29, with working as an unregistered, covert foreign agent under the direction of Alexander Torshin, who has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and has been sanctioned by the Treasury Department.

Though Butina’s defense characterizes Torshin as just a friend and mentor, prosecutors say Torshin directed Butina as she built relationships with influential American political groups and politicians to gather information as part of an effort to advance the Kremlin’s long-term agenda in the run-up to the 2016 election.

Butina has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to act as a foreign agent and acting as a foreign agent, and claims she is just a student. Her indictment includes a spelling variation for her first name: Mariia.

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