Prosecutors: We May Have Misjudged Maria Butina

The accused Russian spy likely didn't trade sex for access
By Josh Gardner,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 9, 2018 3:30 PM CDT
Updated Sep 10, 2018 1:33 AM CDT
Prosecutors Acknowledge Error in Maria Butina Case
Maria Butina, leader of a pro-gun organization in Russia, speaks to a crowd during a rally.   (AP Photo, file)

Prosecutors are walking back the most salacious—and headline grabbing—claim they have made in the case against alleged Russian spy Maria Butina. Per the AP, a Justice Department filing indicates prosecutors are admitting they may have been wrong about the assertion that Butina peddled sex in exchange for a job or influence. The filing says the mistake boils down to a literal misinterpretation of text messages sent to and from Butina, though "even granting that the government's understanding of this particular text conversation was mistaken," there is enough other evidence to keep Butina in custody. While Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has called the accusations against Butina false and pressed the State Department to release her to Russia immediately, the recent filing says the 29-year-old remains a suspect and a flight risk who may not be granted bond.

Per the Guardian, a lawyer for Butina recently slammed federal prosecutors over the sexual allegations he characterized as a sexist smear. "The impact of this inflammatory allegation, which painted Ms. Butina as some type of Kremlin-trained seductress, or spy-novel honeypot character, trading sex for access and power, cannot be overstated," the attorney, Robert Driscoll, wrote in a filing. Driscoll has denied his client is a Russian agent and Butina has pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy and to acting as an unregistered foreign agent. (Read more Maria Butina stories.)

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