The federal judge in Washington overseeing Maria Butina’s criminal case said Thursday she won’t disturb a Friday sentencing date for the Russian gun-rights activist following a row in court papers between prosecutors and defense lawyers.
Butina’s attorneys this week sought to strike a declaration that prosecutors filed last week. Butina pleaded guilty in December to conspiring to act as a foreign agent of Russia without first notifying the U.S. government.
McGlinchey Stafford partner Robert Driscoll and associate Alfred Carry, who represent Butina, accused prosecutors of raising a “wholly new theory of espionage activity” in the declaration. In a Tuesday filing, they asked U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan to strike the information, arguing that “permitting the government to proceed on this basis would effectively transform Maria’s sentencing hearing into a separate trial on unreliable claims with lower burdens of proof.”
Chutkan denied the bid in a minute order Thursday, noting that Butina’s attorneys “had notice of the government’s intent to call Mr. Anderson as a witness or submit a Declaration from him since April 10, 2019.” The order also pointed to an appeals court opinion that said courts are allowed to consider all sources of information to fashion sentences.
Chutkan offered to postpone the hearing to allow Butina’s attorneys to prepare a rebuttal to the declaration. The sentencing is still set for Friday since they didn’t seek a delay, the order said.
Prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington are seeking an 18-month sentence for Butina. Her attorneys are seeking a sentence of time served.
“Butina was not a spy in the traditional sense of trying to gain access to classified information to send back to her home country,” Erik Kenerson, an assistant U.S. attorney, said in a memo filed last Friday. “She was not a trained intelligence officer. But the actions she took were nonetheless taken on behalf of the Russian Official for the benefit of the Russian Federation, and those actions had the potential to damage the national security of the United States.”
Butina’s attorneys in their own filing said their client has accepted responsibility for her actions, and for failing to notify the U.S. attorney general of her foreign agent status.
“She regrets this act more than anything and her contrition—reflected in her cooperation and substantial assistance—is honest and sincere,” they wrote last Friday.
Butina was arrested in July 2018, and was ordered detained soon after. She reached a plea agreement with prosecutors in December 2018.