Federal prosecutors who mentioned Russian gun-rights activist traded intercourse as a part of a secret influence campaign had solely weak proof to assist that declare, the girl’s legal professionals argued in court docket papers filed on Friday.
Instead, they mentioned, the federal government distorted years-old textual content messages from the girl, Maria Butina, and quoted others out of context to trump up salacious allegations.
It was all a part of a “sexist smear” effort that unfold broadly and prejudiced public opinion towards Ms. Butina, her legal professionals, Robert N. Driscoll and Alfred D. Carry, argued.
Ms. Butina was arrested final month and charged with acting as a covert Russian agent who received near distinguished American conservatives and infiltrated the National Rifle Association, amongst different organizations.
In arguing that she posed a flight threat and ought to be jailed pending trial, prosecutors asserted that Ms. Butina, 29, only struck up a relationship with a Republican operative, Paul Erickson, 56, to additional her work as a Russian agent. They additionally mentioned she as soon as provided intercourse in change for a job with an unnamed particular curiosity group.
Citing the proof introduced by prosecutors, Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson of Federal District Court in Washington ordered Ms. Butina held in jail.
But each of the federal government’s claims about Ms. Butina’s habits are false, her legal professionals mentioned Friday. They mentioned that that they had pressed prosecutors for proof supporting their declare that she had provided intercourse for a job and that the federal government postpone answering them.
When prosecutors finally revealed the premise for the allegation, Ms. Butina’s legal professionals mentioned, it turned out to be an “innocuous three-year-old text exchange” between Ms. Butina and a longtime good friend who labored for her gun-rights group — and who had simply helped her renew her automobile insurance coverage.
During the dialog, which passed off whereas each have been in Russia, Ms. Butina — who, her legal professionals mentioned, was mates with the person’s spouse and thought of him to be like a brother — jokingly provided intercourse for the favor. At no level through the dialog did Ms. Butina search a job, they mentioned, and the one particular curiosity group talked about was the one she had based.
Her legal professionals additionally took purpose at statements by prosecutors who described her relationship with Mr. Erickson as “duplicitous” and borne of comfort.
They mentioned that these allegations have been primarily based totally on non-public messages Ms. Butina had exchanged with a good friend as the 2 swapped cat images, and that Ms. Butina’s complaints largely targeted on frustration over the poor well being of Mr. Erickson’s mom, who died in 2017. ”Offhand complaints about one’s romantic accomplice being too near their mom ought to be out of bounds,” her legal professionals wrote, “and certainly not asserted to be proof of a ‘duplicitous’ relationship.”
Federal prosecutors didn’t reply to a request for touch upon Friday.
The allegations wrongly “painted Ms. Butina as some type of Kremlin-trained seductress, or spy-novel honey pot character, trading sex for access and power,” her legal professionals wrote. The declare was broadcast all over the world by information organizations, they mentioned, and “worse, it also appeared on the television of her parent’s family room TV.”
They sought her launch from jail and argued that the federal government “should be held to a higher standard and not fuel the sexist and misogynistic flames surrounding this case with baseless slurs and indignities.”
Ms. Butina was transferred final week from the jail in Washington to a detention middle in Virginia amid criticism from the Russian authorities, which issued an announcement final week accusing federal prosecutors of making an attempt to interrupt her psychologically by taking away her private belongings and maintaining her in isolation.
Prosecutors have but to supply proof in court docket filings that Ms. Butina sought to commerce intercourse for affect. Last month, they disclosed that that they had gathered a number of terabytes of information whereas constructing a case towards her. But her legal professionals mentioned they have been assured that the federal government had no additional proof past the Russian textual content messages about automobile insurance coverage.
Separately on Friday, Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of Federal District Court signaled that she was weighing whether or not to challenge a gag order barring either side from speaking to reporters in regards to the case.
Matthew Rosenberg contributed reporting.