Federal prosecutors are backing down on their allegation that a Russian woman accused of working as a secret agent offered to exchange sex to gain access, according to a presentation by the Justice Department court.
Prosecutors earlier accused Maria Butina, an arms rights activist, in US custody on charges of working as an undercover agent and tried to establish communication channels behind the channel to the Kremlin, to offer to exchange sex for a position in an organization. special interests
The demoniacal allegation, which immediately intensified public interest in the case, was based on a series of text messages to and from Butina and other information that prosecutors say they obtained.
Federal prosecutors admit that they misinterpreted text messages when they alleged that Maria Butina, a Russian woman accused of working as a secret agent, traded sex for access.
Prosecutors acknowledged that they made an error in the case of Maria Butina
But in a new court filing, prosecutors said they misinterpreted the messages.
They said that "even admitting that the government's understanding of this particular text conversation was flawed", there is other evidence to support the maintenance of Butina in custody as the case against its advance in Washington.
Butina was arrested in July, accused of gathering information about US officials and political organizations.
Prosecutors say he used his contacts with the National Rifle Association and the National Prayer Breakfast to develop relationships with American politicians and gather information for Russia.
They also say that he used his role as a student at American University in Washington as a cover for his activities.
The case is being handled by the United States attorney for the District of Columbia and not by special advisor Robert Mueller, who led an investigation into the possible coordination between Russia and the Republican presidential campaign of Donald Trump, as well as Russian interference in the 2016 US elections.
Butina had a romantic relationship with Republican agent Paul Erickson of South Dakota and entered Republican circles.
The concession was filed Friday night in a courtroom in which prosecutors said Butina, 29, should remain in custody as a flight risk, but wrote that "the government's understanding of this particular text conversation was wrong ".
The presentation was made before a state hearing scheduled for Monday.
Butina's lawyer, Robert Driscoll, strongly denied the accusation and said the government had relied on a three-year "harmless" text exchange between Butina and a long-time friend, assistant and public relations professional for a group. of arms rights that he had founded.
The person, identified in court documents only as DK, had said in the text that he did not know what Butina owed him after he took the car to renew the insurance and inspect the government. She responded in part, & # 39; Sex. Thank you very much. I do not have anything else. Not a dime to my name.
In a court appearance last month, Driscoll said the sexual comment was clearly a joke and that Butina is a friend of DK's wife and son and treats him like a brother. He said there is no evidence that the two have had sex.
Butina pleaded not guilty to charges that he was acting as an agent of the Russian government since his arrest in July
"The impact of this incendiary claim, which described Ms. Butina as a seducer trained in the Kremlin, or a honeypot character from spy novels, trading sex for access and power, can not be overstated," Driscoll said.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Sunday, Driscoll said: "I am happy that the government has withdrawn its false accusations."
Butina, 29, pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy and acting as an unregistered foreign agent for Russia.
Driscoll has denied that Butina is a Russian agent, and called the case "exaggerated." He has said that his client was simply a student who wanted to see a better relationship between the US. UU And Russia and that sought to establish contacts with influential people in American politics.
The sexual accusation was only a small part of the evidence presented by the prosecutors when arguing to Butina prison.
Prosecutors argued for the most part that she represented an "extreme" flight risk and raised the possibility that the Russians would expel her from the country using her diplomatic immunity to protect her from the application of the law in the USA. UU
Prosecutors said his activities in the United States were being conducted by a Russian official, identified by Driscoll in court as Alexander Torshin. He is a senior official of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, former legislator and member of the NRA since 2012.
The admission that the US government made a mistake represents a victory for Butina's defense team, which has tried to soften the image of the 29-year-old and get her released from jail
Torshin was also among a series of Russian businessmen and officials sanctioned this year by the US Treasury Department for their links to Russian President Vladimir Putin and for his participation in "the advancement of the evil activities of Russia."
Prosecutors said they also found evidence that Butina has had contact with Russian intelligence.
FBI agents photographed his dinner with a diplomat suspected of being a Russian intelligence agent.
They discovered that he had contact information for people suspected of being employed by the Russian Federal Security Services, or FSB, the successor intelligence agency of the KGB. They also found notes in their house in reference to a possible job offer from the FSB.