Maria Butina, Accused Russian Spy, Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy
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by Fox News | 12.13.18
A woman accused of being a secret agent for the Russian government who surreptitiously gathered intelligence on American officials and political organizations pleaded guilty Thursday to a conspiracy charge.
Maria Butina, 30, dressed in a green jumpsuit and with her red hair pulled back, appeared before a federal judge at a district court in Washington D.C. and pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government.
Federal Judge Tanya Chutkan said she found Butina "understands the nature of the charges against her and is acting on her own free will," and accepted the guilty plea, which was part of an agreement with prosecutors.
Authorities charged that Butina's work was directed by Alexander Torshin, a Russian government bank official now under sanction by the Treasury Department for his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Prosecutors claim Butina used her contacts with the National Rifle Association and the National Prayer Breakfast to develop relationships with U.S. politicians and gather information for Russia.
Prosecutors also have said that Butina's boyfriend, conservative political operative Paul Erickson, identified in court papers as "U.S. Person 1," helped her establish ties with the NRA.
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