The attorney for Mariia Butina alleged in a Friday court filing that “sexist” prosecutors intentionally misconstrued the young Russian graduate student’s communications in order to paint her as spy who offered sex for favors.
“The government gratuitously and falsely smeared her character and reputation in its written memorandum and oral proffer made in open court,” Robert Driscoll wrote in an indignant 16-page memorandum.
“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,” Driscoll added.
Butina was indicted in July for acting as an agent for Russia without properly registering with the U.S. government. A federal judge in D.C. agreed with prosecutors’ request that she be held in pretrial detention based on their concerns that she posed a flight risk, and that the U.S. lacked an extradition treaty with her home country.
Driscoll’s Friday filing asked the judge to reconsider.
Prosecutors and the FBI “should be held to a higher standard and not fuel the sexist and misogynistic flames surrounding this case with baseless slurs
and indignities,” Driscoll said.
In making their request, prosecutors said they had “substantial evidence” that Butina was in a sham relationship with GOP operative Paul Erickson. “On at least one occasion,” they said, she offered to trade sex with a different operative in order to receive a job with a special interest organization.
Driscoll claimed that the government could only offer one example to support that allegation: a 2015 text exchange between Butina and the public relations representative for her Russian gun rights group, the Right to Bear Arms.
After the unnamed representative helped her deal with her car insurance renewal, he told Butina she owed him some sort of favor.
“Sex. Thank you so much. I have nothing else at all. Not a nickel to my name,” Butina replied.
Driscoll said that the exchange was just a “joke” between friends, and that the representative replied with more information about the car insurance and related documents.
As to the alleged phony relationship with Erickson, Driscoll said that prosecutors could only provide one exchange in which Butina complained to a friend about Erickson’s elderly mother, saying she felt like she was “residing in a nursing home.”
It’s unclear if prosecutors do have other evidence that bolsters their claims.
The thrust of Driscoll’s argument for Butina’s release is that she carried out all of her activities in public, networking openly with GOP operatives and National Rifle Association higher-ups. Driscoll says she was not acting at the best of any Russian intelligence agency or official, despite her work with Russian Central Bank deputy Alexander Torshin. Butina also remained in the U.S. after reports on her activities began to trickle out into the press last year, Driscoll points out.
Butina is being held at a jail in Alexandria, Virginia.
Read the full document from Driscoll below.