US court sentences Russian gun activist Maria Butina to 18 months in jail
Maria Butina, a Russian gun-rights activist accused of spying for the Kremlin, has been sentenced to 18 months in prison by a Washington DC judge. Butina will be deported to Russia after serving her sentence.
Before the sentencing hearing on Friday, Butina asked the judge for leniency.
“My parents discovered my arrest on the morning news they watch in their rural house in a Siberian village,” she told the court. “I love them dearly, but I harmed them morally and financially. They are suffering from all of that. I destroyed my own life as well. I came to the United States not under any orders, but with hope, and now nothing remains but penitence.”
Butina traveled to the US on a student visa in 2016 and became active in pro-gun circles. Swept up in the hunt for “Russian agents” in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election, she was accused of working with the Russian government to make inroads with the Republican Party and National Rifle Association. Moscow has rubbished the notion of having any connection to her.
ALSO ON RT.COMThe long history of US-Russian ‘meddling’ (by Stephen Cohen)Butina pleaded guilty to felony charges of conspiracy to act as an unregistered foreign agent in the US, a requirement she said she was unaware of.
Her nine months already served in prison will count towards her 18 month sentence. During her time in jail, Butina alleged she was treated unnecessarily harshly, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov saying her conditions were “normally reserved for dangerous repeat offenders.”
Since her arrest in July of last year, much of the mainstream media ran story after story alleging Butina was a spy who sought to ingratiate herself into the US establishment, and even offered sex in exchange for influence. Her lawyer, Robert Driscoll, told reporters on Friday that Butina was arrested and smeared for no other reason than her nationality.
ALSO ON RT.COMNo, Mueller didn’t ‘prove’ Russian hacking in Florida – or anywhere else“Anyone who thinks that someone who wasn’t Russian would be in this situation is fooling themselves,” he said.
Butina’s sentencing brings to a close another ‘Russiagate’ feeding frenzy that has dragged on alongside Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Though Butina pleaded guilty, her defence team maintains that she was not a spy, “never engaged in covert activity and she has never lied to our government.”