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1 Aug, 2019 10:09

New twist in Butina case possible after FBI informant denied she posed threat to US – lawyer to RT

A new development in the case of the Russian gun activist Maria Butina has emerged after an FBI informant, with whom she had an affair, revealed that he repeatedly told the agency that the woman posed no threat to the US.

Butina’s lawyer, Robert Driscoll, issued a statement last week, saying that a man, who used to be in a relationship with his client, had contacted him and revealed that he was an FBI informant during their time together. The person in question was none other than US entrepreneur, e-commerce pioneer, and CEO of Overstock.com Patrick Byrne.

Byrne insisted that he had reported on multiple occasions to the FBI that “Maria’s behavior and interaction with him was inconsistent with her being a foreign agent and more likely an idealist and age-appropriate peace activist.”

She was arrested in July last year and charged with failing to register as a foreign agent. The Russian gun activist pleaded guilty in December after being held in solitary confinement for months and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

The FBI informant came forward because “he was particularly upset when he heard news reports of the sentencing where the government characterized her as a threat to national security,” Driscoll noted. At the time of her arrest “he was of the strong view that she was not a danger and wasn’t a Russian agent.”

Such stance completely echoed the line of Butina’s legal team, who insisted during the trial that she was only “a Russian student with an interest in politics, who really wanted better US-Russia relations,” the lawyer added.

Driscoll told RT that he had sent a letter to the Department of Justice as soon as Byrne came forward in order to receive copies of his reports and hopes to “hear back shortly” from them.

If indeed there was exculpatory evidence that was withheld that could be a cause to look at the sentence again or possibly even look at the plea agreement and the conviction.

However, he noted that it was too early to talk about filing any papers when the content of Byrne’s reports was yet unknown.

The lawyer believes that Butina found herself behind bars because she was a Russian student with links to gun advocacy groups and other conservatives in the US “at a time when there was hysteria – which I think somewhat continues to this day – about interactions with Russians.”

Also on rt.com ‘We weren’t ready for such a harsh, unfair ruling,’ Maria Butina’s dad tells RT

The authorities and the media in the US “weren’t particularly careful about distinguishing between interacting with a Russian [citizen], which Maria was, and interacting with, in quotes, ‘the Russians,’ meaning the Russian government,” he said.

The attorney maintains that it was “imprudent” for Maria to plead guilty to being a foreign agent because it was obvious that she was never one, but with the US laws “written very broadly” it was possible for her to do so.

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