Alleged Kremlin operative Maria Butina’s lawyers are disputing prosecutors’ claim that she used sex to infiltrate the conservative movement and accusing prosecutors of promoting “sexist stereotypes.”
Federal prosecutors had alleged that Butina—the grad student who spent years building close relationships with powerful leaders on the right—once offered sex in exchange for a job in a special-interest group and saw her relationship with boyfriend Paul Erickson as just a means to an end.
In court filings posted Friday, her lawyer Robert Driscoll strenuously pushed back.
Driscoll wrote that the only material Justice Department prosecutors produced as evidence that Butina tried to use sex for professional advancement came in a three-year-old text message exchange with a longtime friend and assistant who had taken Butina’s car for an inspection and insurance renewal.
“I don’t know what you owe me for this insurance they put me through the wringer,” the friend wrote.
“Sex,” Butina replied to him. “Thank you so much. I have nothing else at all. Not a nickel to my name.”
Butina’s lawyer said there is no evidence the two ever had sex, and that the exchange was just a joke between friends.
Her attorney also aimed to rebut a claim from prosecutors that her relationship with Erickson was “duplicitous.” Prosecutors wrote in an earlier filing that the alleged Kremlin operative “complained about living with [Mr. Erickson] and expressed disdain for continuing to cohabitate with him.”
According to Driscoll, the only evidence they have is a 2015 text message exchange between Butina and a friend. In the texts, which the defense presented as evidence, Butina’s friend complains that her boyfriend hasn’t called her in three weeks.
“It’s even worse in my case,” Butina replies. “He’s been bugging the shit out of me with his mom.”
“I have a feeling that I am residing in a nursing home,” she added.
Driscoll complained that the prosecution’s claims about Butina have fueled “sexist stereotypes.”
“There may not be anything that can be done about the media and popular culture’s sexist assumptions about this young woman, but AUSA Kenerson, the United States Attorney’s Office, and the National Security Division should be held to a higher standard and not fuel the sexist and misogynistic flames surrounding this case with baseless slurs and indignities,” he wrote.