USG: whoops, that Mata Hari stuff was just banter over car insurance

Prosecutors can plant wrong, inflammatory, and damaging stories about defendants with no real consequence, part 24,873 [Sharon LaFraniere, New York Times]:

Federal prosecutors have admitted that they wrongly accused Maria Butina, a Russian citizen now in custody on charges of illegally acting as a foreign agent, of offering to trade sex for a job as part of a covert effort by Russian government officials to infiltrate Republican circles in the United States.

In a court filing late Friday, prosecutors in the United States attorney’s office in Washington acknowledged that they had been “mistaken” in interpreting what were apparently joking text messages between Ms. Butina and a friend who had helped her renew her car insurance.


  • I wonder about the argument that the prosecution is reported to have made for keeping her in custody, that she must be a Russian agent because Russian officials have visited her six times in jail. Is that not within the range of normal consular assistance? She was arrested on July 15th, so that comes to approximately one visit every ten days. I don’t know about the Russian consulate, but if I am not mistaken some diligent consular officers will visit a jailed national once a week.

  • It’s comforting to know that if I am visiting a foreign country and am arrested for spying, the US Embassy will apparently ignore me.


  • Also, with the allowance of “Victim Impact Statements”, alleged victims can also plant wrong, inflammatory, damaging (and entirely fictitious) statements as has happened recently in California.