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US judge delays sentencing of Russian woman who admitted to foreign-agent charge

Maria Butina's mugshot after being booked into the Alexandria detention center (Alexandria, Virginia Detention Center/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

A U.S. judge has delayed the sentencing of Maria Butina, the Russian woman who admitted to working as a foreign agent to infiltrate a gun rights group and build ties with U.S. conservative political activists.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan made the decision on February 26, after prosecutors cited Butina’s ongoing cooperation with unspecified investigations.

Butina, 30, has been in custody since being arrested in July. In December, she pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to act as a foreign agent for Russia.

Prosecutor Erik Kenerson told the court that investigators still need Butina’s cooperation. He did not elaborate.

Chutkan set the next hearing in her case for March 28.

Butina admitted trying to infiltrate the National Rifle Association, a powerful U.S. political organization which has close ties to Republicans and spent record funds in support of Donald Trump’s presidential election campaign.

Paul Erickson, a conservative U.S. political activist who has been identified as Butina’s boyfriend, has been referred to in court papers but has not been charged. He has, however, been charged in an unrelated fraud and money-laundering case in his home state of South Dakota.

Prosecutors have built their case against Butina in large part by focusing on a powerful Russian politician identified as her mentor or financial backer.

That man, Aleksandr Torshin, was a deputy governor of Russia’s central bank and a former member of Russia’s parliament.

The U.S. Treasury Department hit Torshin with economic sanctions in April. He has not been charged in the Butina case.