Butina's verdict 'impossible to separate from politics,' sets a dangerous precedent – her lawyer
"I think it's impossible to separate [Butina's case] from the politics," Driscoll said. He added that it was hard to imagine that a citizen of any other country but Russia would get the same treatment in the US for such a minor offense.
"There's an underlying crime that she's pled guilty to which you can make out under US law. But I think that the notion that this would have been investigated or an arrest would have been made for a typical foreign national who wasn't Russian and wasn't in the current environment in the US... it's almost impossible to believe that."
The way the Butina case unfolded is a prime example of selective justice, Driscoll believes. Historically, the charges she had faced used to be brought against actual spies, which Butina wasn't – even according to the US prosecutors.
"None of Maria's activities in the US were illegal in and of themselves. There is no classified information, no politically sensitive information – and everyone seems to forget that she was not paid by the Russian Federation. She was financially supported by Americans while she was here."
Her case can pave the way for a dangerous precedent for countries "grabbing civilians of other countries as leverage or for other reasons," Driscoll warned.
"Say, a son or daughter of a US senator or cabinet member went to study somewhere and joined a civil society group or a particular interest group – it would be no different than what Maria Butina did," he said.Also on rt.com Accused ‘spy’ Maria Butina wouldn’t be in jail if she ‘wasn’t Russian’ - attorney
Butina campaigned for milder gun laws in Russia before she set off to the US on a student visa in the summer of 2016. Once in the US, she continued to rally for her cause, making contacts within the biggest gun lobbying organization in the country, the National Rifle Association (NRA). She was arrested as the Mueller investigation was in full swing in July 2018 and charged with failing to register as an agent of the Russian government. Following months of what the Russian Foreign Ministry described as "borderline torture" in jail, she pleaded guilty to the charge in December. At the same time she was smeared in the media as a spy who exchanged sex for political connections, allegations that were determined to be untrue.
Having spent nine months in custody, she was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison on Friday. The sentencing came as a major upset for Butina and her defense, as they had hoped for a time-served sentence, Driscoll said.
"We're kind of stunned here. We all were hoping for a time-served result which we did not get," he said, adding that Butina's lawyers were making arrangements for her father to go from his home town to Moscow so he could meet his daughter as soon as she is deported back to Russia.
Driscoll said that he has not decided whether to lodge an appeal, since it is "unlikely" it would help set Butina free before the end of November, when she is expected to be released.
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