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U.S. Prosecutors Say They Erred In 'Sex' Claim Against Accused Russian Butina

Accused Russian citizen Maria Butina in 2015
Accused Russian citizen Maria Butina in 2015

Federal prosecutors in Washington say they were "mistaken" when they accused Russian citizen Maria Butina of offering to trade sex for a job at a U.S. lobbying group.

In a court filing late on September 7, prosecutors acknowledged they had misinterpreted what apparently were joking text messages between Butina and a friend.

While admitting the error, prosecutors stood by the main charges of their case and argued that Butina should not be released on bail because she is likely to flee the country.

Butina is being held without bail in Alexandria, Virginia, outside of Washington awaiting trial on charges of acting as an unregistered agent for the Russian government.

The Justice Department says Butina's efforts were part of the Russian government's secret campaign to try to influence high-level Republican politicians, including Donald Trump, both as a candidate and after his election as president.

Before her arrest, the gun-rights advocate had built up a network of prominent Republican contacts in Washington, including at the powerful National Rifle Association, while working toward a master's degree in political science at American University.

Butina's lawyers argued that the prosecutors' error was evidence of a flawed criminal case that has wrongly implicated their client.

Twice since her arrest, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has complained about her detention with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, prosecutors noted.

"The actions of the Russian Federation and its officials toward the defendant have confirmed her relationship with, and value to, her own government," prosecutors said in their filing.

A federal judge is scheduled on September 10 to review her request to be released on bail.

Based on reporting by The New York Times and CNN