As per NPR, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan said on Thursday that Maria Butina, who pleaded guilty in December 2018 to working as a secret agent to try and infiltrate Republican political circles and influence United States-Russia relations, will be sentenced on April 26.
Butina, who has been detained since her arrest in July and remained silent during her sentencing, faces a maximum of five years in prison, although she can receive zero to six months through her plea deal. It is also possible that she will receive time served and be deported back to Russia.
“We’re happy to see the process move forward,” said Butina’s attorney Robert Driscoll.
He also addressed the potential for no time served.
“That’s what we’ll argue for, but obviously it’s in the judge’s hands.”
Federal prosecutors accused the former American University graduate student of attempting to cultivate relationships between Republicans and Russian politicians using the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other groups. But Driscoll claims that she is misunderstood.
“I think our minds fill in lots of things when you see a tall redhead with a Russian accent.”
Regardless, Butina pleaded guilty in December to conspiring to act as an illegal foreign agent “under the direction of” a Russian official, Alexander Torshin, as per CNN. Torshin is the retired deputy governor of the Central Bank of Russia.
According to CNN, Butina was briefly interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. However, she was reportedly not a central part of the case.
According to anonymous sources, Mueller’s team was likely attempting to determine the nature of her interactions with J.D. Gordon, a former national security aide on the Trump campaign. The sources also claim that Butina was questioned about her insight — if any — into the Trump campaign’s effort to alter the Republican National Committee platform’s language in reference to Russian movements.
“Maria’s plea agreement requires cooperation with any relevant entities,” Driscoll said. “She’s complied with all such requests.”
Butina is viewed positively in Russia; she was recently called “optimistically minded” by a state news agency Tass and congratulated by the country’s diplomats on International Women’s Day.
The announcement of Butina’s sentencing is fresh off the heels of charges filed against Paul Erickson, a Republican fundraiser who had a romantic relationship with Butina. According to prosecutors, Erickson is guilty of defrauding investors via a South Dakota business scheme, although he maintains his innocence.