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Maria Butina, alleged Russian agent, ask U.S. court to intervene over ‘arbitrary’ punishment

November 27, 2018

Attorneys for alleged Russian agent Maria Butina claim their client has been inexplicably placed in solitary confinement following a recent breakthrough in negotiations between defense lawyers and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Ms. Butina’s legal team filed a motion in D.C. federal court Tuesday raising concerns about her stay at the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center in Alexandria, Virginia, seeking reprieve from conditions her lawyers say are careening her toward a mental collapse.

“As of the date of this filing, Ms. Butina has now been in solitary confinement for 22 hours a day for 6 consecutive days with no prospective release date,” defense lawyers Robert N. Driscoll and Alfred D. Carry wrote in a motion seeking her transfer back into general population. “According to at least one deputy, the move to solitary confinement has also not been entered into the Alexandria detention center computer system, and Ms. Butina’s status is disclosed only by a piece of tape with handwriting attached to the guard stand.

“It is the opinion of the undersigned that prolonged depravation of human contact and interaction is starting to have a profound psychological impact on Ms. Butina,” they wrote. Unless the court intervenes, she will continue to be held in this manner and ultimately require the attention of mental health professionals.”

Representatives for the Justice Department did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Ms. Butina, 30, a gun-rights advocate and former American University student, is charged with acting as an unregistered agent for the Russian government.

Prosecutors alleged she forged relationships with American politicians to create back channels between D.C. and Moscow that could be used “to penetrate the U.S. national decision-making apparatus to advance the agenda of the Russian Federation,” while defense attorneys claim her supposed criminal behavior was both benign and constitutionally protected.

Ms. Butina pleaded not guilty during her initial arraignment, but a document filed in her case docket last week said that lawyers have been negotiating a “potential resolution.”

Ms. Butina has been detained since her arrest in D.C. on July 15, and she previously spent approximately 67 days consecutive days in solitary confinement, according to her attorneys.

“Despite a subsequent release into general population that came at the undersigned’s repeated requests, correctional staff reinstated her total isolation on November 21, 2018 although no infraction nor occurrence justified the same,” they wrote in the motion Tuesday.

“Ms. Butina has never violated an Alexandria detention center rule or been the subject of discipline,” they added. “In addition, during the weeks she was allowed to live with the general population at the Alexandria detention center, she interacted well with her fellow inmates and created no incidents. Thus, it appears that the move to ‘administrative’ segregation is a ruse to shield review of arbitrary conduct.”

Moscow has previously protected the charges against Ms. Butina and has labeled her a “political prisoner.”

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