WASHINGTON, May 16. /TASS/. The decision of Russian national Maria Butina to file an appeal against her 18-month sentence won’t necessarily allow her to walk free from prison earlier, but this will set a precedent in similar cases, her attorney Robert Driscoll told TASS.
"I don’t think it will get her out necessarily before she’s going to serve her time. But for future people it would essentially challenge the law," Driscoll said.
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.
In December, US District Judge Tanya Chutkan noted that after reaching a plea agreement and pleading guilty Butina deprived herself of the right to lodge an appeal, but there was an exception. The attorney explained that this was related to the rights of foreign citizens, which are stipulated in the US Constitution. There is a possible legal argument that an appeal can be filed on certain constitutional grounds that are not available through a plea agreement, Driscoll explained.
However, "it will be weeks" before the appeals court starts considering the document.
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.