Prosecutors Seek 18-Month Sentence for Butina

Maria Butina. Photo courtesy William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center)

(CN) – In a sentencing memo filed late Friday, Justice Department prosecutors are seeking an 18-month sentence for Maria Butina for her attempt to gain favor with U.S. gun rights and conservative political groups on behalf of Russia.

According to the court filing, prosecutors say Butina’s cooperation with prosecutors merits the sentence, reduced from 24 months they said would be appropriate without her cooperation.

Butina, a Russian national, has spent the past nine months in jail since her arrest. She pleaded guilty in December to one count of conspiring to act as a foreign agent. She admitted to conspiring with former Russian politician Alexander Torshin to infiltrate the National Rifle Association in order to create a backchannel of communication between Russia and U.S. political figures.

In a separate sentencing memo filed late Friday, Butina’s attorneys asked U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan to release her from prison with time served. They cited her cooperation with investigators, special counsel and the Senate Intelligence Committee, as well as giving the committee “thousands of pages of documents.”

“Although Maria has committed a serious offense, just punishment does not require additional incarceration,” her attorneys wrote in the memo.

Her attorneys wrote that Butina is expected to return to Russia once she’s released from prison.

“Maria Butina is a devoted daughter, genuine idealist, and compassionate civil activist,” her attorneys wrote. “Nearly a year ago, she graduated with a master’s degree from American University with straight A’s and bright career prospects. Now, her world has collapsed because of a decision to help and discuss her amateur diplomacy efforts with a Russian official.”

Prosecutors with the DOJ said in their court filing that Butina “was not a spy in the traditional sense,” but deserved to serve time for her actions.

“She was not a trained intelligence officer,” prosecutors wrote. “But the actions she took were nonetheless taken on behalf of the Russian Official for the benefit of the Russian Federation, and those actions had the potential to damage the national security of the United States.”

Butina was scheduled to be sentenced in February, but prosecutors asked to delay it due to her cooperation. Her sentencing is scheduled for next Friday.

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