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    This courtroom sketch depicts Maria Butina, in orange suit, a 29-year-old gun-rights activist suspected of being a covert Russian agent, listening to her attorney Robert Driscoll, standing, as he speaks to Judge Deborah Robinson, left, during a hearing in federal court in Washington, Wednesday, July 18, 2018. Assistant U.S. Attorney Erik Kenerson, bottom left, and co-defense attorney's Alfred Carry, right, listen. Prosecutors say Butina was likely in contact with Kremlin operatives while living in the United States. And prosecutors also are accusing her of using sex and deception to forge influential connections

    US Prosecutors Ask Court to Maintain Gag Order in Butina Case - Filing

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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - US prosecutors have asked the court to maintain a gag order in the case of Russian national Maria Butina, according to their statement released by the court.

    "The government respectfully requests that the Court direct that the Order remain in place during the pendency of this case," the document said on Wednesday.

    In September, US District Judge Tanya Chutkan imposed a gag order barring both federal prosecutors and Butina’s attorneys from speaking publicly about the case. On December 17, the judge asked the two parties to submit their opinion on whether the order should remain in place, be modified or vacated.

    Prosecutors outlined three reasons to continue the gag order. They noted that "until defendant has been sentenced, not all charges have been dismissed."

    Also, prosecutors pointed out, "prior to sentencing, the standard for the defendant to withdraw her guilty plea is lower than after sentencing." Butina's legal counsel said that her cooperation with US authorities may lead to other arrests, they noted in the filing. "Those potential defendants have the same right to a fair trial that Ms. Butina does," they said.

    However, a document signed by Butina's lawyers Robert Driscoll and Alfred Carry said on Wednesday that "Defendant Maria Butina requests that […] the gag order should be vacated."

    The legal counsels noted that "restraint of speech is disfavored under the First Amendment and presumptively unconstitutional."

    Butina pleaded guilty last Thursday in front of a US federal judge to one count of conspiracy to act as a foreign agent. Initial charges against her carried a prison sentenced of up to 15 years. The next hearing is set for February 13. She may be sentenced to five years and eventually deported to Russia.

    Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said earlier on Wednesday that the US authorities have forced Russian national Maria Butina to put her signature under ridiculous charges, creating intolerable conditions of detention and threatening her with a long prison term.

    READ MORE: Media is Wrong: Butina Fails to Register as Foreign Agent, She Was Never a Spy

    Meanwhile, the Daily Beast news outlet has reported that the US Federal prosecutors in Washington, D.C., also filed a sealed court motion asking for a secret transportation of Russian national Maria Butina, detained in the United States, so that she could testify in an unspecified "pending criminal investigation."

    US authorities arrested Butina in mid-July after which she was detained in Washington, D.C., and subsequently transferred to a prison in Alexandria, Virginia.

    The Russian national originally pleaded not guilty to charges of acting as a foreign agent and conspiracy to act as an agent of Russia in the United States. The Russian Foreign Ministry has said the charges against Butina were groundless and trumped-up and called her ongoing detention unacceptable.

    Related:

    US Forced Butina to Admit Charges, Creating Intolerable Conditions - Moscow
    Sealed US Court Files Suggest Butina May Testify in Another Case - Reports
    Media is Wrong: Butina Fails to Register as Foreign Agent, She Was Never a Spy
    'The Spy' Who Wasn't A Spy: US Media's False Coverage of Maria Butina
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    gag order, court, Maria Butina, United States
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