US government fears for Maria Butina’s safety, prosecutors accidentally reveal

Chuck Ross, DCNF

Federal prosecutors accidentally disclosed Friday that they fear for the safety of Maria Butina, the alleged Russian agent who is cooperating with the U.S. government.

Prosecutors disclosed their concerns in a court filing that was intended to be filed under seal, out of public view. The document appeared briefly on the federal court system’s documents database and was spotted by reporters.

“Although the fact of defendant Butina’s cooperation is now public, the details of her transportation to and from the jail are not,” prosecutors told District Judge Tanya Chutkan.

“Once disclosed, such information could be used by individuals or entities who might seek to harm or intimidate the defendant to prevent her from continuing to cooperate with law enforcement.”

The filing does not specify what threats Butina may face. But the 30-year-old Butina pleaded guilty in federal court Thursday to conspiracy involving Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank. She entered a cooperation agreement with prosecutors.

Beginning in March 2015, Butina and a person believed to be her boyfriend, a GOP operative named Paul Erickson, “agreed and conspired” with Torshin and another unnamed person “to act in the United States under the direction of Russian Official without prior notification to the Attorney General.”

Butina admitted that she “sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over U.S. politics.”

She and Torshin established links to the National Rifle Association, meeting on several occasions with officials from the gun rights group. Butina established her own pro-gun group, The Right to Bear Arms, which sought to establish gun rights in Russia.

Erickson is reportedly a target in the federal investigation, which is being conducted separately from the special counsel’s probe of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government.

According to Friday’s filing, prosecutors plan to transport Butina to and from the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, D.C., and jail in Alexandria, Virginia. Prosecutors also said that Butina may be transported to a grand jury.

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