Accused Russian secret agent makes plea deal
WASHINGTON (AP) - A senior Russian lawmaker says he's convinced that the Russian woman who's pleaded guilty to being a secret agent in the United States has done so under pressure.
Leonid Slutsky is chairman of the Russian State Duma's foreign affairs committee. He tells Russian news agencies that the charges against 30-year-old Maria Butina were trumped up and that she's fallen victim to what he calls "political inquisition."
Slutsky says he's convinced that she was pressured to confess.
He says: "They broke her down. Anyone would break down in circumstances like that."
Butina's time in prison has included solitary confinement.
A woman accused of being a secret agent for the Russian government has pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in federal court in Washington.
Maria Butina appeared in court after reaching a deal with prosecutors. As part of that deal, she says she tried to infiltrate the National Rifle Association and relay intelligence on American politicians to a Russian government official.
The case involving the 30-year-old gun rights activist has offered insight into how Moscow tries to influence American policy. But Butina's case is separate from special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation.
Butina has agreed to cooperate with investigators. She'll remain jailed while awaiting sentencing.
A federal judge must sign off on the plea deal involving a woman accused of being a secret agent for the Russian government.
Maria Butina's court appearance came days after her lawyers and prosecutors filed legal papers asking to change her initial plea. They said they had "resolved" the case. She pleaded guilty Thursday to a conspiracy charge in federal court in Washington.
The 30-year-old gun rights activist is accused of gathering intelligence on American officials and political organizations. Prosecutors say Butina's work was directed by a former Russian lawmaker.
They say she worked to develop relationships with American politicians through her contacts with the National Rifle Association.
Butina's lawyer has argued she is simply a student interested in better U.S.-Russia relations.
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