“It is not correct that we are thinking of entering a plea agreement. We are always trying to see what the government’s side is going to offer. Based on that, we will consider what is better for our client,” Bukh said on Monday.
The attorney said he would meet with Nikulin on Tuesday morning and conduct a conference with prosecutors after the meeting. The lawyer said his primary goal at this stage of the case is “to find out Nikulin’s psychological conditions because he is too alarmed.”
“At this time, we do not have the [plea] offer, it is just the beginning of the case. We anticipate we will study a few terabytes of data. It is a huge volume of materials,” Bukh said.
Such cases can drag on for years, Bukh said. “Sometimes a plea deal could be better than waiting until the trial ends,” he added.
Bukh anticipates that the government could provide an offer within the next few months. But a decision on the offer most likely will only be possible after or during the discovery stage of the trial, he said.
The lawyer also suggested that his client would not face a “horrible” sentence.
“We have few counts from 5 to 10 years. In this case, we do not see big numbers of victims, so we do not anticipate a huge deal size. However, it is very preliminary to estimate,” he said.
Nikulin was arrested in the Czech Republic on a US warrant in October 2016 for allegedly hacking into computers belonging to LinkedIn, Dropbox and Formspring online services. He was extradited to the United States on March 29.
The Russian Embassy in the United States said it was officially notified by the US State Department about his extradition. Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Moscow outraged by the decision of the Czech Republic to extradite Nikulin.
Nikulin has also been charged with internet fraud in Russia in 2009. Moscow and Washington both requested Nikulin’s extradition on the same day. The Czech court ruled both requests legal, leaving the decision to the country’s Justice Minister Robert Pelikan, who satisfied the US request.
Initially, Nikulin has pleaded not guilty to the US charges against him, which include conspiracy, cyber intrusion and aggravated identify theft.