Maria Butina, a Russian national charged with conspiracy and acting as the agent of a foreign government, joined prosecutors Monday in asking a judge to schedule a hearing for her to change her plea.
Butina had pleaded innocent in the case in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. She has been jailed since July, largely in solitary confinement. But now lawyers for both sides are asking for a plea hearing Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.
“The parties have resolved this matter,” the two-page filing said.
The latest court filing suggests that Butina could be preparing to plead guilty to charges involving what prosecutors claim were efforts to infiltrate U.S. political organizations in order to advance Russia’s interests.
A plea deal could shed further light on her activities.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan appointed public defender A.J. Kramer as an advisory counsel to Butina without further explanation. The move came after Chutkan held a phone conference with Butina’s defense lawyers, Robert Driscoll and Alfred Carry, and assistant U.S. attorneys Erik Kenreson and Thomas Saunders.
Chutkan earlier placed a gag order on both the federal prosecutors and the defense team that prevents them from speaking publicly about the case.
The case against Butina was filed by the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia and is unrelated to Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Butina, who entered the United States in 2016 on a student visa, has been jailed as a flight risk without bond in Alexandria, Virginia, since her arrest in July. She has been held for months in solitary confinement, which keeps her in “a steel door cage the size of a parking space” for 22 hours each day, according to one of her court filings. She asked Chutkan to allow her into the jail’s general population, but was rejected.
The Russian Embassy has called repeatedly for her release, most recently on Thursday.
Butina is accused of engaging in a years-long campaign as a covert agent for the Kremlin in an attempt to “advance the interests of her home country.”
She is accused of infiltrating multiple political organizations, including the National Rifle Association, to gain influence for Russia.
In the original charging documents filed in July, prosecutors claimed that Butina worked at the direction of “a high-level official in the Russian government who was previously a member of the legislature of the Russian Federation and later became a top official at the Russian Central Bank.”
The official, whose description matches Alexander Torshin, had been sanctioned by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control in April 2018 and is prohibited from traveling to the U.S.
The pair identified political organizations and politically connected individuals who they could “exploit,” the indictment said. She has been active with the NRA in recent years and is credited for creating a Russian version of the gun-rights organization, which officials have pointed to as a way for her to gain contacts and supporters.
A March report issued by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee referred to the public reporting about Butina and Torshin, claiming that Butina “sought to facilitate meetings with Trump campaign officials and between President Putin and candidate Trump during the election.”