A US federal judge sentenced Russia national Maria Butina to 18 months in prison on Friday, after she pleaded guilty to trying to infiltrate conservative political circles and promote Russian interests before and after the 2016 presidential election.
She is the first Russian citizen convicted of crimes relating to the 2016 election, though her efforts to infiltrate Republican circles appeared to be separate from the Kremlin’s sweeping election-meddling campaign detailed in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report.
The 30-year-old gun rights enthusiast has been incarcerated since her arrest in July and will receive credit for the nine months previously served. She will be deported to Russia after serving her sentence.
“This was no simple misunderstanding by an overeager foreign student,” Judge Tanya Chutkan said.
Chutkan said that Butina, who studied at American University in Washington, engaged in work on behalf of a Russian official that was “sophisticated” and “dangerous.”
Butina spoke for five minutes at Friday’s hearing, her voice at times breaking, as she expressed regret for her crime and asked for forgiveness.
“I deeply regret this crime,” Butina said. “Ironically it has harmed my attempts to improve relationships between the two countries.”
As part of her plea deal, Butina has cooperated extensively with the government. A source familiar with the situation said she primarily provided information about her boyfriend, GOP political operative Paul Erickson, who was allegedly involved in her scheme.
So far, Erickson has not faced charges in DC. Erickson was indicted in February on wire fraud and money laundering charges in a separate case in South Dakota. He pleaded not guilty to the federal charges.