The gun-loving Russian woman charged with being an unregistered foreign agent and cozying up to politicians to infiltrate the U.S. political system tried to swap sex for influence, prosecutors alleged Wednesday.
The "Red Sparrow" scenario was unveiled in a memorandum that laid out reasons why prosecutors believe Mariia Butina, 29, should remain jailed until trial. Butina, who allegedly conspired with a Russian politician and banker to push Moscow's agenda in the U.S., is due in federal court in Washington on Wednesday afternoon for a detention hearing.
In arguing that Butina is a flight risk, prosecutors said her only tie to the U.S. is a "personal relationship" with an unidentified man — which is branded "duplicitous," suggesting she was using him for her own means. According to The Washington Post, the man’s description matches that of Republican operative Paul Erickson.
"Butina appears to treat it as simply a necessary aspect of her activities," the memo says. "For example, on at least one occasion, Butina offered an individual other than U.S. Person 1 sex in exchange for a position within a special interest organization. Further, in papers seized by the FBI, Butina complained about living with U.S. Person 1 and expressed disdain for continuing to cohabitate with U.S. Person 1."
Previously, the FBI said in court papers that Butina sought to establish relationships with a "gun rights organization." The organization was not named but a senior U.S. official confirmed it was the National Rifle Association, which did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Prosecutors also said in Wednesday's memo that Butina should be kept behind bars because the Russian official, identified by sources as Alexandr Torshin, considered her a covert agent and even compared her with a fellow redhead, the flame-haired Russian spy Anna Chapman.
They cited a March 2017 message from Torshin to Butina after a series of news stories about her activities in Washington that focused on her background as a gun rights activist.
"Good morning! How are you faring there in the rays of the new fame?" he wrote. "Are your admirers asking for your autographs yet? You have upstaged Anna Chapman. She poses with toy pistols, while you are being published with real ones. There are a hell of a lot of rumors circulating here about me too! Very funny!"
The government's memo also said that Butina maintained contact information for "individuals identified as employees of the Russian FSB," which is the successor to the KGB, and recently had dinner with a Russian diplomat suspected of being a Russian intelligence officer.
They said that in the days before her arrest, she appeared to be making plans to leave Washington and possibly the country, making a trip to U-Haul with her American lover and wiring $3,500 to an account in Washington.
Butina's lawyer, Robert Driscoll, said in a statement Tuesday that she is not an agent of the Russian Federation but an A student at American University who has been "cooperating with various government entities for months regarding public allegations related to her contacts with various American and Russian individuals."
He did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday's prosecution memo.