01:58 GMT28 February 2021
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    Russian national Maria Butina was released from prison and boarded a plane to Moscow on Friday after serving more than a year of wrongful imprisonment and months of her sentence in solitary confinement. However, she has yet to be repaid for the false allegations from US media and prosecutors and other federal misdeeds.

    Butina, who was arrested in July 2018 on a charge of conspiring to act as an unregistered foreign agent in the US, was finally released from the low-security Federal Correctional Institution, Tallahassee, on October 25 and promptly transported to an immigration detention facility.

    While Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov had previously issued a statement to manage expectations concerning Butina’s ability to return to Russia, she was able to board Aeroflot Flight 111 to Moscow out of Miami International Airport on Friday evening with no reported hiccups.

    Jim Kavanagh, the editor of ThePolemicist.net, joined Radio Sputnik’s Loud and Clear on Friday to discuss Butina’s release and also review what led to her serving over a year in prison - much of which she spent in solitary confinement.

    “She came over here naively thinking she was going to improve relations between the United States and Russia. She herself was a gun rights activist in Russia, and she then connected up with gun rights people in the United States,” Kavanagh told hosts Brian Becker and John Kiriakou. “So this became all wrapped up in the Russiagate investigation and the Mueller investigation, and essentially what they did was they charged her with not registering as a foreign agent.”

    He went on to say that despite the US government and Western media’s attempts to smear Butina as an asset of the Russian government who attended college and gun rights conventions in order to meet people she would then sleep with in exchange for information, those allegations were never proven in court.

    “None of that turned out to be true. She was going to school - they had to admit it … The FBI followed her around and said she was trying to escape when she was moving her furniture from one apartment to another,” Kavanagh added. “The law investigation was just dead set on getting an indictment against someone who was Russian.”

    In September 2018, prosecutors who had claimed Butina used her body in exchange “for a position with a special interest organization” were forced to retract their previous allegations and make it known that they had misconstrued text messages written by Butina. However, retractions rarely receive the same coverage as salacious falsehoods.

    “The government has enormous power to destroy lives and reputations through the criminal process,” Robert N. Driscoll, Butina’s defense attorney, said in a statement at the time. “This is an unfortunate example of the misuse of that power. I’m glad the false allegation has been acknowledged, but it’s a hard bell to unring.”

    Even though there were consistent examples of evidence against Butina not holding up, she was still subjected to solitary confinement and alleged sexual assault through cavity searches during her time behind bars until she agreed to plead guilty in December 2018.

    “They needed a Russian name and a Russian face,” Kavanagh said. “They got a lot of good headlines from her.”

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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