US: Russian sentenced to 18 months for conspiracy

By Michael Hernandez

WASHINGTON (AA) – Admitted Russian agent Maria Butina was sentenced to 18 months in prison for attempting to infiltrate conservative circles to advance Russian interests.

Butina, a 30-year-old Russian national, was arrested by the FBI in July and has been held in federal custody. She pleaded in December to being a secret agent working to advance the Kremlin's interests and faced up to five years behind bars.

U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan, however, handed down a comparatively light sentence.

"This was no simple misunderstanding by an overeager foreign student," Chutkan said, according to multiple reports.

Butina, a gun rights advocate and American University graduate student, expressed remorse for her crime and sought leniency during Friday's sentencing hearing.

She will reportedly be credited for the time she spent in jail following her arrest, leaving roughly nine months on her term, and will be deported to Russia after serving her sentence.

Butina admitted she worked to gain information on the National Rifle Association and other conservative groups for Alexander Torshin, a Russian official and former lawmaker, from early 2015 through February 2017.

She admitted to seeking to establish unofficial lines of communication between Torshin and the conservative circles and use them to Russia's benefit.

Her attorneys sought to make the case Butina was simply seeking to improve relations between the U.S. and Russia.