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Maria Butina, suspected Kremlin agent, gets public defender

Polly Mosendz and Greg Farrell, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Maria Butina, a Russian gun rights activist who is accused by the U.S. of acting as a Kremlin agent during the 2016 presidential race, was granted a court-appointed attorney Thursday.

A one-sentence court order entered Thursday said Butina is being represented by A.J. Kramer, a public defender it identified as an "advisory counsel."

The reason for the appointment wasn't immediately clear. A court can appoint an advisory counsel when the judge feels that the defendant may need to consult with an additional lawyer. The order was entered hours after a status conference on Butina's matter, which her defense requested to have placed under seal.

Robert Driscoll, the attorney who has been representing Butina, declined to say why Kramer was assigned. "I'm not withdrawing," he said by text message, without elaborating.

Butina entered into talks with prosecutors to secure a plea deal in mid-November, Bloomberg News reported at the time, citing a court filing.

Butina, 30, was arrested in July and held in solitary confinement. She was charged with conspiring to act as a foreign government agent and prosecutors alleged she had ties to the Russian intelligence community.

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As a gun rights enthusiast, Butina had ties to members of the National Rifle Association, a Virginia-based Second Amendment-focused group. The group supported Donald Trump's 2016 campaign.

(Andrew Harris contributed to this report.)

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