WASHINGTON, June 8. /TASS/. A federal public defender will represent Russian citizen Maria Butina during court hearings into her appeal against the 18-month prison sentence, according to a document uploaded to the database of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
"Appellant has been allowed by the district court to prosecute the appeal without prepayment of costs, and appellant is being represented on appeal by the Federal Public Defender for the District of Columbia," the court order says.
The court also obliged Butina’s former attorney Robert Driscoll to hand over all necessary documents on her case.
"Trial Counsel is directed to transmit all papers in his possession, including any transcripts prepared under the Criminal Justice Act, to appellate counsel as promptly as possible," the document says.
On April 26, a Washington-based court sentenced Butina to 18 months in prison for violating the law on foreign agents.
The decision to file an appeal won’t necessarily allow Butina to walk free from prison earlier, but will set a precedent in similar cases, Driscoll told TASS in mid-May. According to him, Butina made the decision to appeal the sentence on her own. "It’s Maria’s decision and we support her," the attorney said.
Maria Butina, 30, was arrested in Washington DC on July 15, 2018 - prior to 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 December 13, Butina pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to violate the US law governing foreign agents operating in the country and signed a plea agreement. Butina had arrived in the United States for a course of studies. She did a master’s degree at American University, where she studied international relations.
Moscow insisted that Butina had been arrested on trumped-up charges and demanded her release.