A federal magistrate judge ordered Wednesday that a Russian woman charged with being a Russian agent in the United States must be jailed ahead of her trial after prosecutors said she was a flight risk.

By Carrie Johnson

The woman, Maria Butina, has been in regular contact with Russian intelligence, the Justice Department says, and she attempted to offer sex in exchange for a position with an organization she targeted.

Prosecutors included that information in court documents as part of their request that Butina be detained ahead of her trial because they said the danger was “serious” that she would leave the country.

Maria Butina Memorandum in Support of Pretrial by Syndicated News SNN.BZ on Scribd

Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson found that the Justice Department had demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that nothing short of pretrial confinement could reasonably ensure that Butina would appear for her trial.

Prosecutor Erik Kenerson told the court that “the evidence is overwhelming the defendant was here on behalf of the government of Russia … to carry out a covert influence campaign.”

If Butina were permitted to remain at liberty, he warned, the Russian government could get her out of the country and the U.S. government might have no way to guarantee that she would appear.

“If she gets into a diplomatic car, that car can go across the border,” Kenerson said. “We do not have an extradition treaty with Russia.”

FBI agents arrested Butina on Sunday as she was apparently preparing to move to South Dakota. Her attorney, Robert Driscoll, told the judge that she would be willing to postpone that move and check in regularly if she were released.


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