Accused Russian Spy Maria Butina Wants to Change Her 'Not Guilty' Plea

Arturo Kim
December 13, 2018

Prosecutors say they have "resolved" a case against a woman accused of being a secret agent for the Russian government, a sign that she likely has taken a plea deal.

This is the first time the Russian leader commented on Butina's case since she was arrested in summer.

Butina, a former American University graduate student, had previously pleaded not guilty to U.S. charges in July that she was acting as an agent of the Russian government and conspiring to take actions on Russia's behalf.

Prosecutors allege Butina, 30, gathered intelligence on American officials and political organizations.

The Russian Embassy in Washington D.C. objected to the treatment of Butina and accused the US of torturing her to force an agreement to testify.

Butina's efforts also included organizing "friendship dinners" for wealthy and influential Americans to discuss U.S. -Russia relations, ensuring Torshin kept tabs on the guests.

She was accused of espionage, and later on in the illegal work of foreign agent without registration, she is facing 15 years in prison. Butina will appear in court for a change-of-plea hearing later this week.

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An accused Russian spy held by the United States on charges of infiltrating Republican Party circles to provide information to Moscow has reached a deal with prosecutors to plead guilty, court records showed Monday.

At one point, Torshin asked her to provide a note justifying his attendance at the 2016 NRA national meeting.

Exactly how the deal will be structured for Butina was not immediately clear. That's an indication she may change her plea to guilty. After it ended, she sent Torshin a message: "We should let them express their gratitude now, we will put pressure on them quietly later". She was charged with acting as covert agent of a foreign government, and conspiracy to do the same.

Erickson also attempted to gain access to the Trump campaign for Butina and Torshin. "Oh, and I have 3 words for you: January is coming". A judge will determine her sentence but the deal means she could be released from jail and deported to Russian Federation in coming months.

But prosecutors have accused her of working with a Russian official and two USA citizens to try to infiltrate the powerful NRA lobby group that has close ties to Republican politicians including President Donald Trump, and influence Washington's policy toward Moscow.

However, Russian president Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday his intelligence agencies don't know who she is.

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