When last we heard from Anna Fermanova, the would-be cosmetologist from Plano was dishing out celeb gossip on CW33 while awaiting yet another court appearance in New York on federal weapons-smuggling charges after feds accused her of rocketing to Russia high-priced rifle scopes on the U.S. Munitions List. Her TV debut was four months ago -- plenty of time, it turns out, for the "sexy Russian" (who was no spy, she insisted repeatedly) to ponder the what-ifs should she go to trial over those scopes tucked in her Uggs. Hence, her attorney Scott Palmer tells Unfair Park this evening, the reason she went to Manhattan today to plead guilty to a single count of violating the U.S. Arms Export Control Act.
Palmer acknowledges: Had the 24-year-old been found guilty at trial, she very well could have faced four to 10 years in prison. But he's hoping the guilty plea puts "her in the best possible light in front of the judge," who Palmer hopes gives her probation when she's sentenced in the spring.
"I don't really want her to go to prison, nor does she," Palmer says. "We thought about going to trial. There were some very narrow issues -- like whether they could prove she knew whether the scopes were manufactured to military specifications. The question is: Did she willfully violate the law, knowingly and intentionally? And we looked at that pretty hard. She didn't want to chance it. She wanted to accept responsibility for her actions and go out quietly."
Fermanova's still living in Plano, still studying to be a cosmetologist. Her TV gig's over, though, having lasted all of five appearances. Palmer says she's due back in court April 29, when she's due to be sentenced. (Messages were left for Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth DuCharme in Brooklyn.)
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I asked Palmer: Was it difficult to cop a guilty plea, given months of insisting she was an innocent just doing her husband a solid?
"Yes and no," Palmer says. "Again, if you go to trial and lose, the likelihood of probation is almost none. But if you make it easy on the government, there's a much better chance of the judge rewarding you. The guidelines are very hard on these cases, but there are a lot of extenuating circumstances, and the judge may sustain my argument this is the exception to the rule.
"Weighing her options, she couldn't risk going to trial, losing and going to prison for up to seven years. It was tough. And it was tough for me because I spent months reading up on this, and there's some interesting case law on this, and some have come out in the defendants' favor after appeal. I was very encouraged by that. So, yeah, it was a tough decision. She's fine with it. She wants to take her lumps. She's gonna be in a better position in front of the judge going this way."
We'll find out in three months.