U.S. government admits error in claiming alleged Russian spy offered sex for job

By Susan McFarland

Sept. 8 (UPI) -- Prosecutors on Friday said they misunderstood text messages they used as the basis of a claim that alleged Russian spy Maria Butina offered to trade sex for political access.

Butina, a 29-year-old U.S.-based Russian woman, was charged in July for conspiring to influence American politics.


The accusation against Butina, that she offered "sex in exchange for a position within a special interest organization," has been disputed by her lawyer.

"I want the government's walk back to get as much coverage, as prominently, as their initial false allegation," said her attorney Robert Driscoll.

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The text message in question is one in which Butina joked she owed a friend sex for having her car insurance renewed.

Despite the error, the government still questions Butina's commitment to her boyfriend Paul Erickson, a South Dakota conservative political operative CNN identified as U.S. Person 1 in the lawsuit.

"Even granting that the government's understanding of this particular text conversation was mistaken, other communications and materials in the government's possession (and produced to the defense) call into doubt the defendant's claim that her relationship with U.S. Person 1 is a sufficiently strong tie to ensure her appearance in court to face the charges against her if she is released," the filing said.


Prosecutors said the text exchange they had misunderstood was not the only piece of evidence they have against Butina, which includes extensive communications she had with a Kremlin-linked banker and meetings she had with National Rifle Association officials as part of a plan to influence the U.S. government.

Butina, in jail awaiting trial, has pleaded not guilty and denies any wrongdoing. Both sides are expected back in court Monday.

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