Maria Butina’s lawyer says that the court decision against his client will be challenged – possibly after her extradition to Russia
Robert Driscoll, attorney for Maria Butina, spoke in an interview with the Voice of America Russian Service about the latest events in the life of his famous client. According to the lawyer, it is too early to put an end to the Butina case: “The criminal prosecution was illegal.”.
By stage from Virginia
A year ago, Maria Butina, a graduate of the American University in Washington, a political activist and defender of the right to own weapons, who, according to her, was engaged in establishing “people’s diplomacy” between the United States and Russia, could hardly imagine where she would end up and what she would do later. a year after her arrest on 15 July 2018.
Now Butina’s life is scheduled by the minute – in accordance with the work schedule of the federal correctional institution of general regime, in which she is kept: daily wake up at 6 am, breakfast at 6:30, two or three roll calls a day, lights out at 9 pm.
Just over a year ago, FBI agents arrested Maria Butina at her home in Washington. She was charged with violating the American law on foreign agents – according to the prosecution, Butina was promoting the interests of the Russian Federation in the United States without registering as a foreign agent and thereby violating the law on the registration of foreign agents, passed in 1938..
In April, a Washington court sentenced Butina to 18 months in prison. She is due to be released October 25, said her lawyer, Robert Driscoll, who heads the Washington office of law firm McGlinchey Stafford – on condition of “good behavior.” So far, he said, there are no signs that her sentence could be extended..
Lawyer Robert Driscoll
After long wanderings in American prisons, Butina finally found herself, as her lawyer says, “at the final destination” – a female federal general security correctional facility in Tallahassee, in northern Florida..
Butina’s prison odyssey began on May 11, shortly after sentencing in federal court in Washington..
“First, she was sent from a detention center in Alexandria [Butina was there during the trial – Voice of America] to [Worsow Federal Prison] in Virginia for a couple of days. Then from Virginia they sent her to Oklahoma, to Grady County Jail, and from Oklahoma to Jacksonville [Florida], ”Driscoll lists, adding that there is nothing strange about such transferring – prisoners in the United States are often moved through several detention centers. before assigning them a permanent place of detention.
“I don’t want to sound too positive. A prison is a prison. Where she is now – they usually hold long-term prisoners there … I think it’s more of a normal [correctional facility], says Driscoll. – She has the opportunity to walk. There is a treadmill … She has no complaints about food – there are more fruits and vegetables on the prison menu. “.
According to Driscoll, inmates at a prison in Tallahassee have the opportunity to make video calls – 45 minutes a week. Maria actively uses this opportunity: weekly calls her relatives in Russia. Butina has now completely refused to communicate with the press – at least until the moment she was released, says Driscoll..
- According to information published on the website of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the correctional facility in Talahasi is currently holding 845 inmates..
- Among them – Catherine May Wood, a former nurse who killed five charges in a nursing home in Michigan (due to be released in 2021) and Narsi Novak – the widow of multimillionaire Ben Novak Jr., who in 2009 hired killers to murder her own husband and mother-in-law (sentenced to life imprisonment without the right to be released).
“The criminal prosecution was illegal”
Maria Butina’s prospects are more optimistic – she has a little less than four months before her release and subsequent deportation to her homeland. According to Driscoll, the deportation will take place almost instantly – perhaps Maria will only spend a few days in the United States after she was released from prison, waiting for a suitable flight..
“Before the verdict was pronounced, we had previously discussed the conditions with the Immigration and Customs Service and the Ministry of Justice – we signed a court order to expel from the country, and she said that she would refuse any hearing in the immigration court … Thus, they would deport her immediately after serving her sentence,” says Driscoll.
However, it is too early to put an end to the case of Maria Butina, the lawyer adds. On May 16, Butina filed an appeal against a federal court’s decision to convict her of conspiracy to work as an agent in the interests of a foreign official.
Sketch from the courtroom during the trial of Butina
The reasons for the appeal were not specified in the statement, which was published on the website of the District of Columbia Court. Driscoll declined to go into details: he said the appeal filed in May “simply retained our right to appeal” against the court’s decision..
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The lawyer explains that the procedure for filing an appeal is quite complicated and takes place in several stages, and therefore it is unlikely that it will end before October 25, the day when Butina will be released. The text of the appeal note is not yet ready, Driscoll said. Most likely, it will talk about some “constitutional” violations committed by the prosecution during the trial. “The prosecution was illegal,” says Driscoll.
Butina received a relatively short sentence thanks to a deal made with the investigation and an admission of guilt in one of the episodes – conspiracy to work as a foreign agent. She has not yet refused to admit her guilt. But, as her lawyer says, if the appeal is won, Butina will automatically be found not guilty..
“However, this is still a long way off,” the lawyer clarifies. He adds that the appeal will in no way affect the current term of imprisonment. Driscoll believes that the situation during the Butina trial “was dire,” and states that “the prosecution was illegal. But we all tried to find the best way out of the situation, ”adds the lawyer.
“Friend of the Kremlin and Republicans”
Robert Driscoll began representing Maria Butina a few months before her arrest – in February 2018.
“I was recommended to her by another client whom I defended in the case of Russian interference,” says Driscoll, without giving the client’s name, but specifying that this is “an American who knew Maria and Paul [Erickson, Butina’s ex-boyfriend] … She called me personally after being summoned to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee in February 2018. I began to represent her interests in the same month – that is, long before her arrest. She had problems for a long time, and she knew about it … If you google, you will find articles written before [Butina’s arrest] – quite speculative, I would say, “adds Driscoll.
Butina posed as a defender of gun ownership
- One of the first publications in the American press in which Butina’s name surfaced was an article in the Daily Beast entitled “The Kremlin and the Republicans have a new girlfriend – and she loves weapons very much,” which appeared on the newspaper’s website in February 2017. The author of the publication told the readers about a lively Russian woman who “only a few years ago owned a furniture store in Siberia, and is now forging ties in Washington between analysts, republican strategists and the head of the Russian Central Bank, suspected of having links with the mafia.”.
- “Depending on the audience, Butina is presented as an employee of the Central Bank of Russia, a leading defender of the right to bear arms, or a“ representative of the Russian Federation ”, or a graduate student in the District of Columbia, or a graduate student, journalist and“ a liaison between the Trump team and Russia. ” .. This is another chapter in history, which is already becoming familiar to Washington – the representatives of the Kremlin are “building bridges” with the Republican Party “, – wrote the author of the material.
- After that, articles mentioning Butina’s name appeared in late 2017 – early 2018 in many American publications, including the New York Times..
In journalism – since 2001. From 2005 to 2009, he was responsible for public relations at Nokia in the Russian Far East. He worked in Singapore, Thailand, Brazil and Argentina, developing corporate publications for Coca-Cola and Kaspersky Lab companies. In 2017, he participated in the restart of RTVI, worked as an Internet news editor at the channel’s New York office. On «Voice of America» – since 2018.