A U.S. federal judge has sentenced a Russian gun rights proponent to 18 months in prison for conspiring with a senior Russian official to infiltrate the National Rifle Association (NRA) and influence U.S. conservative activists and Republican politicians to benefit the Kremlin.
Maria Butina, a former graduate student at American University in Washington, pleaded guilty in December. A U.S. district court judge in Washington said Friday Butina will get credit for the nine months she served, but will be deported immediately after serving her sentence.
Butina pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to act as a foreign agent. Her attorneys have requested a sentence of time served and deportation to Russia after cooperating with prosecutors. Prosecutors have also asked the court to deport Butina, who has been in jail since her arrest last July, and to impose an 18-month jail sentence.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr has said Butina should be deported to Russia without serving her sentence.
Butina is the first Russian national convicted of trying to influence U.S. policy toward Russia before the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Butina said in her plea documents her work was performed under the direction of Alexander Torshin, a former Kremlin official who heads a small Russian gun rights group. In 2013, she began to establish contacts with the NRA, one of the most powerful U.S. lobbying groups with strong ties to the Republican politicians, including President Donald Trump.
The 30-year-old also said she worked with an American political operative to develop unauthorized lines of communications with U.S. political influencers.
Prosecutors said in a court filing Butina was “keenly aware that portions of her work” were reported to “the wider Russian government,” but that she was “not a trained intelligence officer” and “not a spy in the traditional sense.”
Her attorneys wrote in an April 19 sentencing request that Butina acted with hopes of improving U.S.-Russia relations and that she “has done everything she could to atone for her mistakes through cooperation and substantial assistance.”