Attorneys for alleged Russian agent Maria Butina accuse government of withholding evidence

Attorneys for alleged Russian agent Maria Butina accuse government of withholding evidence
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Lawyers for alleged Russian agent Maria ButinaMaria ButinaSenate Democrats request IRS investigation of NRA Senate Democrats say top NRA officials knew about Kremlin ties State Department's top arms control official leaving MORE said in a Monday court filing that the U.S. government is withholding evidence that could help their client.

The claim was made in a letter to Assistant U.S. Attorney Erik Kenerson requesting an indexed and detailed list of evidence produced in discovery. 

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Butina has been indicted on charges of conspiracy and acting as an agent of Moscow without notifying the attorney general. The FBI says she cultivated a network of U.S. contacts in order to help advance Russia’s interests politically.

Butina’s attorneys Robert Driscoll and Alfred Carry accuse the government of suppressing information discoverable under the Brady rule, which requires prosecutors to disclose exculpatory evidence it has to the defense.

Driscoll and Carry said the information “would undermine the allegations in the indictment, attack the credibility of the government’s case, impeach government witnesses, and demonstrate that Maria Butina was, in fact, nothing more than a student with lofty aspirations who was acting on her own and not as a foreign agent.”

The attorneys said they have sent the government five total requests for the information in August and October, but no response has been forthcoming.

“Instead, the government has refused to produce the information sought, stating it ‘cannot confirm or deny,’ its existence,” they wrote. “This position is untenable and tantamount to prosecutorial misconduct.”

Butina's attorneys further argued that the National Security Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office is not immune from disclosing exculpatory information under Brady.

“The fact that Maria Butina is Russian does not reduce the government’s Brady obligations,” they said.

The U.S. Attorneys Office in D.C. said it typically does not comment on pending cases and has no comment on this matter.

In a letter back to Butina’s attorneys Monday evening, however, the prosecutors said they were surprised by the attorneys’ assertion that the government has exculpatory evidence from a “supposed ‘dangle operation’ or confidential government informants.”

The CIA defines a dangle as someone deliberately offered up by an adversary to feed the government false information. 

The prosecutors said they are not aware of any information that would trigger disclosure obligations. 

“Notwithstanding its speculative nature, the government took your original request seriously and made specific inquiries about the hypothetical scenarios you advanced,” they said.

Butina has been ordered to remain in federal custody while she awaits trial. She is due back in court for a status conference in her case on Nov. 13. 

-Updated 8:18 p.m.