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Attorneys for Montana bride ask judge to dismiss murder charges

By Laura Zuckerman

(Reuters) - Attorneys for a Montana bride accused of pushing her new husband off a cliff to his death said federal prosecutors had misrepresented her statements and distorted facts to press murder charges that should now be dismissed, court documents show.

A federal grand jury last month indicted Jordan Graham, 22, on first- and second-degree murder charges stemming from the July 7 death of her 25-year-old husband, Cody Johnson, at Glacier National Park.

U.S. prosecutors said the newlyweds argued during a hike and that Graham shoved her husband of eight days off a rock ledge "due to anger" and after expressing doubts about their marriage.

Federal public defenders for Graham, who has pleaded not guilty, said the death was an accident and argue that Johnson grabbed at his wife during a marital dispute, causing her to pull away even as she pushed her husband back.

In documents filed in U.S. District Court in Missoula, Montana, on Friday, Graham's attorneys argued that federal prosecutors twisted statements Graham made to the FBI and recorded only the parts of her interrogation that would bolster the government's case.

They are asking a U.S. judge to either dismiss the indictment entirely or to strike down the first-degree murder charge, which alleges premeditation and carries a mandatory life sentence, based on prosecutorial misconduct, court records show.

U.S. attorneys in the case did not respond to a request for comment on Monday, a federal holiday.

Johnson was reported missing to police in the city of Kalispell on July 8. Graham told officers at the time that her husband had texted her the evening before to say he was going for a drive with friends, according to legal documents.

Days later, she told emergency dispatchers at Glacier that she had found her husband's body below a steep hiking path. When a park ranger remarked on how unusual that was, she responded that the park "was a place he wanted to see before he died," according to federal investigators.

Graham's trial is scheduled for next month in Missoula.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston; Editing by Ken Wills)

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