Accused Russian spy Maria Butina pleads guilty

13 Décembre, 2018, 22:41 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • In this courtroom sketch Maria Butina left is shown next to her attorney Robert Driscoll before U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan during a court hearing at the U.S. District Court in Washington Thursday Dec. 13 2018. Maria Butina a Russian accuse

In the original indictment, the government alleged that Butina and the Russian official, who were not registered as foreign agents or diplomats, met "for the objective of developing and executing a plan to identify and exploit personal connections with USA persons having influence in American politics" to advance Russian interests.

"Are you pleading guilty today because you are guilty?"

The court has not yet set a sentencing date, but set a status hearing for February 12, the Washington Post reported. The charge she pleaded guilty to could carry a term of up to five years in prison, but sentencing guidelines suggest she'd get between zero and six months in prison. She'll remain jailed while awaiting sentencing.

Butina admitted to working with an American political operative and under the direction of a former Russian senator and deputy governor of Russia's central bank to forge bonds with officials at the National Rifle Association, conservative leaders, and 2016 US presidential candidates, including Donald Trump, whose rise to the Oval Office she presciently predicted to her Russian contact.

In Russia, Butina had established a group that advocated for Russians to own firearms, something that is strictly proscribed under Russian law. The letter also reportedly said prosecutors were weighing whether to charge him with conspiracy. His lawyer released a statement, saying "Paul Erickson is a good American". The operative, previously named as Paul Erickson, is a longtime GOP political adviser from South Dakota who managed the 1992 presidential campaign of Pat Buchanan. Neither Erickson nor Torshin has been accused by prosecutors of wrongdoing.

The plea that Butina agreed to details that she sought to cultivate relationships in the United States. Under his Torshin direction, the agreement said, she "sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over USA politics".

Although Torshin later met Donald Trump an event during an NRA convention, Butina and her colleagues were not able to broker a conference between then-candidate Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Butina's work with her compatriots, meanwhile, continued.

Robert Driscoll Maria Butina’s attorney leaves U.S. District Court in Washington Thursday Dec. 13 2018. Maria Butina a Russian accused of being a secret agent for the Russian government has pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in federal court

After the visit, Butina wrote to Torshin that "we should let them express their gratitude now, we will put pressure on them quietly later", prosecutors wrote in the court papers. Russian Federation is quietly but actively seeking a dialogue with the USA that isn't forthcoming under the current administration.

That Butina was going to change her plea to guilty comes as no surprise, as in recent days, there were reports that the accused Russian spy was going to change her plea.

Prosecutors later withdrew the accusations, saying they were based on a misreading of some of Butina's text messages and emails.

They also withdrew accusations that she had been in contact with Russian intelligence agents.

Her defense lawyers had argued that the portrayal made by prosecutors was an exaggerated caricature.

Butina's case is not related to the investigation led by former FBI chief Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the United States presidential election.

Judge Chutkan revealed that the government had recordings of Butina carrying on a jail phone call with a journalist, a fact that raised questions as to whether the gag order on the case had been violated.

Gun rights activist Maria Butina, 30, admitted a single count of conspiracy at a court in Washington DC.

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