FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida — A Chinese businesswoman charged with lying to a Secret Service agent and trespassing at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida was found guiltyfollowing a bizarre trial.
Jurors handed down the verdict against Yujing Zhang on Wednesday.
Zhang was arrested on March 30 after she allegedly told a Secret Service agent guarding Mar-a-Lago that she was there to use the pool. Once inside the posh Palm Beach resort she told a receptionist she was there to take pictures for a United Nations friendship event. Prosecutors said Zhang knew that the event had been canceled.
The trial had several twists and turns. The 33-year-old consultant from Shanghai fired her public defenders in June and chose to represent herself, a decision Judge Roy Altman did not like. He tried several times during the trial to convince Zhang to let her public defenders try the case but she refused.
And on Monday, a hearing got off to a rocky start when Zhang arrived at court wearing jail attire instead of civilian clothing, telling Altman that she was not provided any underwear. Typically, defendants wear regular clothing to court to prevent a biased view toward them from jurors.
Zhang was eventually given underwear and changed into a blouse and khaki pants so the hearing could begin. During Monday’s court appearance and at several past hearings, Altman accused Zhang of “playing games” and pretending that she did not understand what was going on.
Zhang was arrested at the resort carrying a computer, a hard drive, four cellphones and a thumb drive containing malware, although agents later recanted that accusation. Agents said that Zhang told them she had the items with her because she thought they would be stolen if she left them in her hotel room, but when the room was later searched, multiple devices, thousands of dollars in cash and credit and debit cards were found in the room.
She was charged with unlawful entry of restricted buildings and grounds and false statements and was convicted on both counts.
Trump was staying at Mar-a-Lago for the weekend but was playing golf in West Palm Beach when Zhang arrived.
Xuan Thai reported from Fort Lauderdale and Minyvonne Burke from New York.