Earlier this month, court filings revealed that federal prosecutors and alleged Russian spy Maria Butina were in talks about a potential plea deal. We still don’t know whether that’s happened, or whether it’s going to happen. But we did learn today, thanks to a new filing by Butina’s lawyers, something rather interesting.
With everything else going on in the Trump-Russia scandal, it’s been easy to forget that Maria Butina has been sitting in jail all this time while awaiting trial. She was never released on bail because she’s seen as a potential flight risk. According to the new filing, she’s been moved back and forth between solitary confinement and the general population. This isn’t surprising, considering that she’s a public figure, and they’re often kept away from the general population for their own safety. Currently she’s in solitary.
But now Maria Butina’s lawyers are demanding that she be moved back to the general population. The filing spells out that the conditions in solitary confinement are too psychologically harsh, and this makes sense, as no one would want to be in solitary unless it was necessary. Here’s the thing: in so doing, they’re giving away that Butina is not afraid for her safety.
There are two hypothetical reasons why she would be worried about her safety. The first would be that she’s a public figure who’s recognizable from cable news reporting, making her a potential target by other inmates who want to make a name for themselves. She’s clearly not worried about this. The second would be that she’s afraid Putin and Russia might find a way to harm her while she’s locked up. She’s clearly not worried about this either, because if she were, solitary confinement would be her best bet.
So what does this tell us? We still have no idea if Maria Butina will cut a plea deal. But at the least, we now know that potential retaliation from Putin is not a part of her thinking. If she were afraid of such a thing, she’d be asking to remain in solitary confinement, not demanding to be released into the general jail population.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report