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Russia

US judge refuses to release accused Russian spy Maria Butina from jail pending trial, citing flight risk

The judge also imposed a media gag order on Butina’s defence lawyer as his repeated comments to the news media had ‘crossed the line’

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 September, 2018, 3:28am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 September, 2018, 7:00am

A US judge on Monday refused to release accused Russian agent Maria Butina – also known as Mariia Butina – from jail pending trial, deciding that she remains a serious flight risk.

US District Judge Tanya Chutkan sided with prosecutors, who opposed a bid by Butina’s lawyers during a status hearing in the case to have her released ahead of her trial on charges of acting as an agent of the Russian government and conspiring to take actions on behalf of Russia. She has pleaded not guilty.

The judge took the action even though prosecutors admitted late on Friday that they were mistaken in their previous allegation that she had offered sex in exchange for a job at a special interest organisation.

In a brief filed late on Sunday, Butina’s lawyers criticised the prosecution’s case for why she should remain jailed and cited a series of errors they said prosecutors have made.

Chutkan also imposed a media gag order after prosecutors accused Butina’s defence lawyer, Robert Driscoll, of violating court rules by speaking publicly about the evidence in ways that could taint the jury pool.

Russia demands US release accused spy, calling charges false

The judge said she agreed that Driscoll’s repeated comments to the news media had “crossed the line”.

Chutkan warned Driscoll to stop using “quite descriptive” and “colourful” language in the briefs he has filed with the court in the case.