Maria Butina, a Russian gun rights activist who pleaded guilty to conspiring against the U.S., will remain in custody while she continues to cooperate with federal investigators, a judge ordered Tuesday.
Ruling from D.C. federal court, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan sided with prosecutors and punted on scheduling a sentencing hearing for Butina, a former American University student, until at least a status conference subsequently set for next month.
“Ms. Butina has been detained for a substantial portion of whatever sentence she likely faces,” said the judge, according to court reporters. “However, given her agreement … her cooperation continues to be needed by the government.”
Butina, 31, was arrested in July and charged with counts of acting as an unregistered foreign agent. She initially pleaded not guilty prior to reversing course late last year in tandem with entering a cooperating agreement with federal prosecutors.
Robert Driscoll, Butina’s attorney, said that his client is ready to learn her fate so that she can start serving the sentence and return to Russia.
“From our perspective, we’re ready to go,” Mr. Driscoll said Tuesday, Reuters reported.
The Justice Department, however, argued Butina continues to be needed by federal investigators.
“We are not prepared to set a sentencing date or to request a sentencing date at this point,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Erik Kenerson said at the hearing, The Washington Post reported. “We inform the court, in open court, the defendant’s cooperation is ongoing.”
Judge Chutkan, an Obama appointee, agreed and scheduled Butina’s next status conference for March 24, according to the case docket.
Butina conspired to infiltrate groups including the National Rifle Association in order to covertly influence U.S. policy on behalf of Russia, federal prosecutors allegedly previously.
She has denied spying for Russia, and Moscow has designated her a “political prisoner.”