Butina Appeals 18-Month Stint on Conspiracy Plea

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

WASHINGTON (CN) – Sentenced to 18 months in prison for conspiring to act as an agent of Russia, Maria Butina filed an appeal Wednesday with the D.C. Circuit.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan had sentenced Butina on April 26 after the Russian national made an emotional, but ultimately unsuccessful, plea to be released on time served. 

Butina has already spent more than nine months in jail following her arrest, and pleaded guilty to the single conspiracy count in December.

As part of her plea, Butina admitted that she worked with former Russian official Alexander Torshin to create a backchannel for talks between U.S. and Russian political figures.

Such work included infiltrating the powerful National Rifle Association.

Chutkan rejected Butina’s argument that she came here as a student simply to learn about the U.S. political effort, finding that Butina acted for Russia’s benefit at a time when the country was secretly interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Though not a spy in the traditional sense, Butina was alleged to pose a national-security threat through her clandestine work.

Chutkan said she found sincerity in the Butina apology offered at her sentencing but ultimately sided with the government’s recommendation of an 18-month sentence, with credit for time served.

Butina’s attorney Robert Driscoll with the firm McGlinchey Stafford noted in an email that the appeal will be on constitutional grounds. He did not include any further information.

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