connectVideoChinese woman arrested at the Mar-a-Lago due back in court
A bond hearing is set to resume for a woman arrested on President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club; Phil Keating reports from the courthouse in West Palm Beach, Florida.
The Chinese woman charged with trying to illegally entering President Trump Mar-a-Lago club in Florida surprised a federal judge Tuesday when she asked to fire lawyers and represent themselves.
Yujing Zhang, 33, was at a routine status hearing on whether or not to postpone her trial — which is scheduled for early next week — when she told U. S. District Judge Roy Altman that she wished to dismiss her public defenders.
“I don’t need the lawyers, thank you,” Zhang told Altman with the help of an interpreter at the federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale.
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Altman then asked if Zhang wanted to represent themselves, or if they wanted a different lawyer.
Yujing Zhang, seen in this April 15, 2019 file court sketch, told U. S. District Judge Roy Altman on Tuesday that she wants to fire her attorneys and represent herself.
(Daniel Pontet via AP)
“Today, I don’t want a lawyer,” Zhang said through the translator. She didn’t know why she wanted to change.
Altman tried to dissuade Zhang, told her, “You understand, I have a lawyer for a long time and I think this is a very bad decision?”
“I understand, but I hope that I have this opportunity,” she replied.
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Zhang, a Shanghai-based business consultant, faces up to five years in prison on charges of illegal entry and making false statements after trying to enter the Mar-A-Lago on March 30. Secret service agents said Zhang arrived in the U.S. just a few days before the Mar-a-Lago tri. They pleaded not guilty.
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The 33-year-old speaks English, according to the court documents, but the extent of her language skills are in dispute. One of Zhang’s federal public defenders also asked about her mental health of the judge, according to the Miami Herald.
Altman said he would not allow Zhang to resign from her attorneys until they are examined by a psychiatrist. If she is competent, the judge said, she could represent herself.
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“I don’t want to go to the doctor to go,” Zhang told the court.
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The public defence had asked Altman for the postponement of the trial is scheduled May 28, starting by saying that they had not had enough time to fully prepare its defense, as many of the documents that they are viewing are written in Mandarin. Prosecutors were not against and Altman indicated that he would grant the request according to the Associated Press.
The prosecutors have said Zhang with four mobile phones, a laptop and an external hard drive when they entered the Mar-a-Lago. She reportedly told agents that she feared would be stolen if they left them behind in her hotel room. However, when agents searched her room in a nearby hotel, they say they discovered $8,000 in the US and Chinese currency in addition to a signal detector intended to spot hidden cameras, according to the federal prosecutors
Yujing Zhang is led in the federal district court in West Palm Beach, Fla., in April.
(William Hennessy, Jr./CourtroomArt.com)
Zhang public defenders have said she came to Mar-a-Lago to believe there would be a dinner that evening for the United Nations group. The event was reportedly part of a $20,000 trip Zhang said she bought of a man by the name of “Charles,” whom she knew only through social media. Its lawyers have pointed out that a reception Zhang received of Charles Lee, a Chinese national who promotes such events the Mar-a-Lago, a flyer, she had to promote.
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Lee ran the United Nations Chinese Friendship Association, which is not connected to the U. N., and was photographed at least twice with Cindy Yang, a Republican donor and former Florida massage parlour owner. Yang in the news earlier this year after it was learned she’d promised the Chinese leaders from the business community, through her consulting firm, access to Mar-a-Lago, where they could mingle with the president.
The president was on a visit to Mar-a-Lago, the weekend of Zhang’s arrest, but was playing golf at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, when she arrived and was never near her.
Fox News’ Nicole Darrah, Lukas Mikelionis, Samuel Chamberlain, and the Associated Press contributed to this report.