Prosecutors in talks with accused Russian agent Maria Butina to resolve case

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By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Prosecutors and defense lawyers are in talks potentially to resolve a criminal case accusing gun-rights activist Maria Butina of acting as a Russian agent to infiltrate a pro-gun rights organization in the United States and influence U.S. foreign policy toward Russia.

The parties “continue to engage… in negotiations regarding a potential resolution of this matter,” they wrote in a joint filing on Friday, without elaborating on what a resolution may entail.

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The filing also asked a federal judge to delay a status hearing on the case scheduled for Dec. 6 and said that defense lawyers are poised to withdraw motions they filed on Thursday asking for the case to be dismissed if the judge agrees to delay the hearing.

Robert Driscoll, attorney for Butina and who is under a media gag order imposed by the judge in the case, declined to comment when asked whether his client may plead guilty in order to resolve the case.

Butina, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, has been held in a federal jail since her arrest over the summer.

The former American University graduate student was charged in July with acting as an agent of the Russian government and conspiring to take actions on behalf of Russia.

Butina is accused of working with a Russian official and two U.S. citizens to try and infiltrate the National Rifle Association and influence American foreign policy toward Russia.

Prosecutors have said they believe Butina is a flight risk and claimed she has been in contact with Russian intelligence operatives and kept contact information for several Russian agents.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Dan Grebler)