By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Monday refused to let accused Russian agent Maria Butina out of jail pending her trial, saying Butina poses a “very real risk of flight,” and also granted a prosecution request for a gag order in the high-profile case.
“I cannot envision a scenario for Ms. Butina to be released from jail,” U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan said during a status hearing in the case, adding that such a move would result in her being “placed into a car with diplomatic tags” and being whisked away to the airport for a Russia-bound flight.
Chutkan imposed a media gag order after prosecutors accused Butina’s defence attorney, Robert Driscoll, of violating court rules by speaking publicly about the evidence in ways that could taint the jury pool.
The judge said she agreed that Driscoll’s repeated comments to the news media had “crossed the line.” Chutkan also warned Driscoll to stop using “quite descriptive” and “colorful” language in the briefs he has filed with the court in the case.
The 29-year-old Butina, a former American University graduate student, was charged in July with acting as an agent of the Russian government and conspiracy to take actions on behalf of Russia. She has pleaded not guilty. She could face years in prison if convicted.
Her lawyers had sought Butina’s release from jail pending trial.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Will Dunham)