Last week the Government has charged Mariia Butina with two counts of violating 18 USC 951 which makes it a crime to act as a foreign agent of a government without first registering with the United States Government. Each count is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, although in reality the punishment would be driven by the United States Guidelines and would be much lower.
Nonetheless, even though the actual prison sentence would likely be very low, the Government has moved to detain her pending trial, arguing that she is a flight risk.
Given that she is a Russian national, the risk of flight is real. That said, detention ought to always be weighed against the potential punishment which I cannot imagine would be very harsh.
Imagine for a moment what Americans would say if an American was arrested in Russia who happened to have contact with American and Russian officials, and who spoke at, for instance, Drugaya Rossiya (Garry Kasparov’s old coalition) meetings – assuming they could scrounge together more than 50 people – and was subsequently jailed.
Americans are constantly meddling in other countries’ affairs.
Here we have a woman probably was working with Russian officials, and making connections with various American officials and also private individuals and organizations, such as the NRA. That’s behavior that should be exposed.
But criminal? I don’t think so.