Russian agent Butina sentenced to 18 months

A federal judge on Friday ordered Russian agent Maria Butina to serve 18 months in prison, the term demanded by federal prosecutors in the case.

Butina, who was arrested in 2018, had pleaded guilty to acting as an unregistered foreign agent on behalf of the Russian government. She will get credit for nine months she has already served in prison.

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Butina, dressed in a green prison uniform and wearing her long red hair down, had no visible reaction as she received her sentence.

Butina's attorneys, pointing to her having been incarcerated for roughly nine months, asked that she be sentenced to no additional prison time and instead be immediately deported back to Russia.

District Judge Tanya Chutkan said during the hearing that there was "no doubt" that the 30-year-old Russian national was kind and hardworking, and that Butina had "suffered greatly" due to the high-profile nature of the case.

But she rejected the argument put forward by Butina's attorneys that the woman was not working on behalf of the Russian government, but was rather attempting to help rehabilitate relations between the U.S. and Moscow. 

Chuktan said that Butina's conduct "was no mere failure" to register as a foreign agent, and that she was able to establish contacts "precisely because she did not reveal herself to be a foreign agent."

And she characterized Butina's actions as having the potential to "jeopardize national security."

The 2018 arrest of the Russian national captured international attention, as it played out against a background of heightened concerns over the Kremlin's attempts to interfere in and influence U.S. politics.

Chutkan noted during the hearing that the timing of Butina’s efforts overlapped with those Russian influence operations.

Butina was not mentioned in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerHouse progressive: Pelosi 'has it right' on impeachment Democrats talk subpoena for Mueller Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna: 'I'm not there yet' on impeachment MORE's redacted report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, but did interview with the office as part of its investigation.

Butina’s attorney Robert Driscoll told reporters after the hearing that he found it “curious” that the judge had referenced the timing of the election interference during the sentencing.

“Had she been involved in any of that, I would imagine special counsel Mueller would have mentioned it in his 400 pages,” he said. “But he did not.”

Butina also cooperated with other federal investigations as part of her plea agreement. That included testifying to the Senate Intelligence Committee as it conducts its own probe into Russia's election interference.

Driscoll told reporters that he did not think Butina serving another nine months in prison “was necessary.”

“I do not believe an additional nine months in jail serves any purpose in terms of punishment or contrition at this point; she's already spent 9 months in jail,” he said.

Another attorney representing Butina, Alfred Carry, told the judge that his client repeatedly faced the inaccurate depiction of her acting as a “spy,” and that she never stole documents or tried to gather intelligence on behalf of Russia.

“She is remorseful, not because she is currently in jail,” Carry said, but because she had “hurt the country she loved and admired.”

But Justice Department attorney Erik Kenerson argued that Butina was fully aware of the extent of her actions, and that she was acting on behalf of the Russian government.

He described Butina as a woman who was “simultaneously talented and caring, but also savvy.”

The case of the young Russian national captured headlines not only over the charge of acting as an unregistered foreign agent, but about the connections she was able to establish in D.C.

Butina was found to have gained access to the National Rifle Association (NRA), even at one point arranging for members of the gun rights group to travel to Moscow.

The NRA has sought to distance itself from the Russian agent, saying that the organization's leadership did not support the trip.

She also worked alongside Alexander Torshin, deputy governor of the Russian Central Bank and a former Russian senator who reportedly has close ties to President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinTop European official accuses Trump, Putin of trying to weaken EU Gridlock in Moldova's government helps Russia and Putin What the Mueller report tells us about Putin, Russia and Trump's election MORE and alleged ties to the Russian mob.

Carry said during the hearing that Butina was personally close with Torshin, and that she was not acting at his direction.

The government, while it did not identify Torshin by name, said she was acting under the orders of a Russian official. They alleged that Butina was passing along information to him about Americans who could influence policies in Russia's favor.

And Butina at one point believed she would gain access to President TrumpDonald John TrumpFeinstein, Iranian foreign minister had dinner amid tensions: report The Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Harris readies a Phase 2 as she seeks to rejuvenate campaign MORE himself at a National Prayer Breakfast. That meeting never took place.

Butina will be deported back to Russia after she finishes serving her sentence.

Butina said during her own statement that she has hurt her family “morally and financially.”

Driscoll also delivered a message to Butina’s family through the cameras, filming his remarks outside the courthouse.

“To the extent that her family's watching, we'll try to get her home as soon as we can,” the lawyer said. “I wish we could have had a different result today and she passes along her love.”

--Updated at 12:43 p.m.