Chinese woman in Mar-a-Lago trespassing case fights criminal charges
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club is shown ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Dorian in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S., August 31, 2019. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Photo
FOR LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Reuters) – A Chinese national arrested for bluffing her way onto U.S. President Donald Trump’s Florida resort carrying a variety of electronic gear, sparking questions about whether she was an intelligence threat, faces her first full day of trial on Tuesday.
The defendant, Yujing Zhang, 33, is acting as her own attorney before U.S. District Judge Roy Altman and a 12-member jury in a Fort Lauderdale courtroom on charges of making false statements to a federal officer and trespassing on restricted property.
In a brief opening statement to the jury on Monday, she said, “I don’t know why I’m here.”
Her approach clearly rankled the judge, who urged her to reconsider her decision to represent herself.
“You’re unprepared,” Altman told her. “The trial is going to get very sophisticated very quickly … I strongly recommend (the public defender) step in as your lawyer.”
If convicted, she faces up to six years in a federal prison.
Prosecutors said they expect the trial to end on Wednesday.
At the time of Zhang’s arrest, in an incident that raised concerns about security at the Florida resort, investigators found in Zhang’s possession four cellphones, a laptop computer, an external hard drive device and a thumb drive, the Secret Service said in a court filing. Initial examination of the thumb drive determined it contained “malicious malware,” the Secret Service said.
After the trove of electronics was found on Zhang, a search of her Palm Beach hotel room reportedly uncovered a device meant to detect hidden cameras and nearly $8,000 in cash.
Editing by Scott Malone and Steve Orlofsky
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