Days after Butina was arrested in July, Assistant US Attorney Erik M. Kenerson claimed she was offering an individual “sex in exchange for a position within a special interest organization.” The claim, which caused a storm in the mainstream media, has been disputed by her defense attorney Robert Driscoll.
However, in a filing on Friday, prosecutors in the US attorney’s office in Washington, including Kenerson, stressed that the July allegation “was based both on a series of text messages between the defendant and another individual.” They admitted that the “government’s understanding of this particular text conversation was mistaken.”
Commenting on the Friday filing, Driscoll said that the US government has “enormous power to destroy lives and reputations through the criminal process.” “This is an unfortunate example of the misuse of that power. I’m glad the false allegation has been acknowledged, but it’s a hard bell to unring,” he told the Washington Post.
Butina, a Russian national lobbying for looser gun controls in her home country, moved to the US on a student visa in 2016. She graduated from American University in Washington DC with a master’s degree in international relations earlier this year. In July, she was arrested on charges of acting as a foreign agent without registering with the US government.
In August, Butina was unexpectedly transferred to another prison. According to the Russian embassy, which repeatedly described the arrest as politically motivated, Butina’s current conditions border on torture. “We have more and more questions for the US justice system,” the embassy said at the time. “Should allegations pressed against Maria before the actual trial condemn her to practices that are slightly below torture?”
The embassy previously complained that Butina is being subjected to unwarranted strip searches and denied proper medical care, all in an attempt to “break her will.” Driscoll also confirmed to RT that she was experiencing health problems in jail, bus has been deprived proper treatment.
Butina’s charges make her case quite unusual, Driscoll believes, as the law basically makes otherwise legal actions of an individual prosecutable. “There’s no allegation of espionage, there’s no allegation of classified information, there’s no allegation she was paying anyone off, there’s no allegation she was recruiting spies. None of the things you would typically see in an espionage case,” he told RT back in August.
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