In this photo taken on Friday, Sept. 7, 2012, Maria Butina walks with Alexander Torshin then a member of the Russian upper house of parliament in Moscow, Russia. When gun activist Maria Butina arrived in Washington in 2014 to network with the NRA, she was peddling a Russian gun rights movement that was already dead. Fellow gun enthusiasts and arms industry officials describe the strange trajectory of her Russian gun lobby project, which U.S. prosecutors say was a cover for a Russian influence campaign. Accused of working as a foreign agent, Butina faces a hearing Monday, Sept. 10 in Washington. (AP Photo/Pavel Ptitsin)

Judge imposes gag order in Russian foreign agent case

September 10, 2018 - 4:54 pm

WASHINGTON (AP) — A federal judge imposed a gag order Monday on the lawyers involved in the case of Maria Butina, a Russian gun rights activist accused of working in America as a secret agent for Moscow.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan also denied a defense request that Butina, 29, be released on bail and placed under house arrest.

The gag order comes days after prosecutors admitted they were wrong to accuse Butina of trading sex for access, saying they misinterpreted one of Butina's text message exchanges. But the prosecutors said there is other evidence to support keeping Butina in custody.

Chutkan said Monday she was "dismayed" by the mistake and by the "rather salacious allegations" made by prosecutors. She said that the joking nature of the text message exchange was immediately "apparent on their face" when she read them.

The judge also took aim at Butina's attorney, Robert Driscoll, saying he had "crossed the line" in his frequent public comments about the case.

Prosecutors say Butina gathered intelligence on American officials and political organizations and worked to develop a relationship with American politicians through her contacts with the National Rifle Association. They say her work was directed by a former Russian lawmaker who was sanctioned this year by the U.S. Treasury Department for his alleged ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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