Accused Russian Spy Asks Judge to Deny Prosecution Gag-Order Bid

(Bloomberg) -- Lawyers for Maria Butina, the Russian gun-rights advocate charged by the U.S. with being a foreign agent, asked a federal judge to deny prosecutors’ requests to impose a gag order, saying the government is fueling widespread media coverage, not her attorneys.

Butina was arrested in July and accused of trying to establish connections between Russia and U.S. officials while attending school in Washington. She has been held in custody as a flight risk, after prosecutors alleged she had ties to Russian intelligence services and oligarchs who could help her escape.

Last week, prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan in Washington to impose a gag order limiting all lawyers in the case from making statements outside the proceedings, saying Butina’s attorney, Robert Driscoll, has told the press things that could prejudice jurors.

On Friday, Driscoll asked Chutkan to deny the request. Driscoll said in a filing that he should be allowed to push back against what he called a “false media narrative.” The prosecutors’ request for a gag order would put a “chill” on her right to mount a “competent and vigorous defense,” he wrote, while conceding such an order might be appropriate closer to trial.

“The government claims to be worried about prejudice, but the very idea that Ms. Butina, an alleged Russian agent, will benefit from a jury pool biased in her favor if counsel is permitted to occasionally push back against the overwhelming onslaught of negative stories that have primed distrust toward anything Russian is simply not credible,” Driscoll said in the filing.

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