In a new filing before her hearing this afternoon, Federal prosecutors asked the US District Court Judge to keep Maria Butina, accused of being a Russian foreign agent, in custody as she awaits her trial, The Hill reports.
In a court filing Wednesday, U.S. attorneys told the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that Butina, 29, poses a serious flight risk based on the nature of the charges, her history of deceptive conduct, the potential sentence she faces, the strong evidence of guilt, her extensive foreign connections and her lack of any meaningful ties to the United States.
According to prosecutors, Butina’s apartment lease is up July 31 and she had boxes packed for a move when she was arrested on July 15. FBI agents observed her on July 14 inquiring about renting a U-Haul moving truck and purchasing moving boxes. The apartment was her last tie to the US and she has “access to funds and an intention to move money outside the United States.” She had filed for B1/B2 Visa which would allow her travel in and out of the country, The Hill reports.
“All of Butina’s known personal ties, save for those U.S. persons she attempted to exploit and influence, reside in the Russian Federation,” they said in the filing.
“Because Butina has been exposed as an illegal agent of Russia, there is the grave risk that she will appeal to those within that government with whom she conspired to aid her escape from the United States.”
The filing states that Butina had been living with and in a relationship with an 56 year old individual, reported by NPR to be Paul Erickson. Prosecutors state the FBI seized papers in which Butina complained about living with Person 1 and expressed disdain about the arrangement. The filing points out this relationship, being considered by Butina as “simply a necessary part of her activities”, is not a tie to the United States that would keep her from fleeing to Russia.
Butina is also accused of offering sex to a person other than Person 1 in exchange for a job with an special interest organization she targeted. Erickson and Butina had extensive contacts with the NRA, but it is not clear in the filing if the NRA is the organization mentioned.
Prosecutors also state that Butina was not only in contact with Alexander Torshin, a Russian oligarch who also had extensive contacts with the NRA and who has been sanctioned by the Treasury Department, but was also seen in the presence of a Russian diplomat believed to be a Russian intelligence officer and had been in contact with Russian Intelligence “throughout her entire time” in the US.
Erickson sought to use the NRA as an entry point to the Trump campaign in 2016 and offered them and other politicians a back channel meeting with the Kremlin. The Trump campaign did not take Erickson up on his offer to meet with Putin, but Donald Trump, Jr. did meet with Torshin at the 2016 NRA Convention.
The NRA has not commented on Butina’s arrest and her lawyer states the charges are “overblown” and that she has done nothing wrong.