Next court hearings in Butina case set for March 28

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WASHINGTON, February 27. /TASS/. The next hearings into the case of Russian citizen Maria Butina, who earlier pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the US law on foreign agents, will be held on March 28, a TASS correspondent reported from the courtroom.

The date of the verdict will be set shortly after the status hearings, set for March 28, judge Tanya Chutkan said.

Commenting on the judge’s decision, Butina’s attorney Robert Driscoll told TASS by phone that he expected the sentencing to take place next month.

“If the status hearing is converted to a sentencing, that’s when the sentencing will likely be, because the judge said that she would have a status hearing on March 28. If we convert it to a sentencing, as we are ready, she won’t be able to do it that day and she will have to do it next week [after March 28],” he said. “I think the sentencing will likely be in April.”

“It seems that the judge wants to move it [the trial] along, even if she granted the 30 days this time [for the prosecutors for their additional work with Butina]. But she left open the possibility [of sentencing on March 28], she said if we are ready to go to let her know, and then she can schedule, instead of having status hearing she’ll have the sentencing instead,” he said.

Driscoll said he was “optimistic” about Maria Butina’s possible deportation to Russia shortly after the verdict.

When asked whether the prosecution is interested in her deportation, the attorney said: “They want her deported too.”

“Presuming we get a short sentence and this time is served [while in pretrial detention], then the process of deportation should start immediately,” he said.

Later in the day, he told TASS that once the verdict is pronounced, Butina’s deportation is “a matter of days, days or a week.”

On December 13, 2018, Butina pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the US law governing foreign agents operating in the country. The date for the verdict is yet to be set, because, according to the US Attorney’s Office, Butina had agreed to cooperate with the investigation and this process could take some time.

“I think we’re done with cooperation,” he said. “[However], they think they need some more information to decide whether or not to take other actions. I think they can make this decision without talking to her anymore, but, obviously, under the plea agreement, they can decide how much cooperation they need.”

Commenting on Butina’s condition, Driscoll said she was “doing well, considering that she was incarcerated.”

 

Butina case

Maria Butina, 30, was arrested in Washington DC on July 15, right before the Helsinki meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Donald Trump. The US Department of Justice said that she was suspected of acting “as an agent of Russia inside the United States by developing relationships with US persons and infiltrating organizations having influence in American politics, for the purpose of advancing the interests of the Russian Federation.”

On July 21, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov demanded in a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo that Butina be released as soon as possible. He also slammed all charges brought against her as fabricated.

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