Maria Butina sentenced to 18 months in prison for trying to infiltrate NRA
Maria Butina, the pro-gun activist who admitted being a secret agent for the Kremlin in an attempt to infiltrate conservative political circles in the US, was sentenced by a federal judge Friday to 18 months in prison.
The 30-year-old Siberian native — who pleaded guilty in December to conspiring with a senior Russian official to access the NRA and other groups from 2015 until she was arrested July — said she was “ashamed and embarrassed” by her own actions.
US District Judge Tanya Chutkan gave Butina, a former graduate student at American University, credit for nine months of time served — and ordered her deported as soon as her prison stint is up.
“You have a future ahead of you. I wish you the best luck,” the judge said.
Butina insisted she wasn’t working as a spy, and only wanted to improve Russia-US relations.
“I came here to better my life to get a degree. I wished to mend relations while building my resume,” she told the court. “It was for these actions and my own ignorance that I’m here.”
But she acknowledged to harming relations between the two superpowers.
“It has never been my intention to harm American people but I did so by not notifying your government. It has harmed my attempts to improve relations, ” she added. “I have three degrees, but now I’m a convicted felon with no money, no job and no freedom.”
She added: “Instead of building peace, I created discord.”
The gun-toting, red-haired woman admitted to working with Paul Erickson, her GOP operative boyfriend, “to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over US politics … for the benefit of the Russian Federation,” according to court papers.
Erickson, who managed the 1992 presidential campaign of Pat Buchanan, was indicted in February in South Dakota over what the feds said was an unrelated investment-fraud scheme.
In her plea papers, Butina said she worked under the direction of former Russian government official Alexander Torshin, a lifetime NRA member.
She admitted to working as an undeclared agent of a foreign government, but did not admit to and was not charged with espionage.
Butina pleaded guilty to acting as a foreign agent for Russia without registering in the US.
“This case is not simply about failing to notify the attorney general,” Chutkan said. “It is because she didn’t register that her conduct was so dangerous.”
Butina was the first Russian convicted of seeking to influence US policy in the run-up to the 2016 election, though her case was handled by the US Attorney’s Office for DC and the Justice Department’s national security division, not by special counsel Robert Mueller.
With Post wires
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