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Chinese Businesswoman Found Guilty of Trespassing at Mar-a-Lago Chinese Businesswoman Found Guilty of Trespassing at Mar-a-Lago
(32 minutes later)
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Yujing Zhang wore her inmate uniform to court and told the judge that she did not have any underwear on. FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Yujing Zhang wore her inmate uniform to federal court and told the judge she did not have any underwear on.
She repeatedly objected without seeming to know why and called the judge, “My honor.”She repeatedly objected without seeming to know why and called the judge, “My honor.”
In an unusual trial that touched on charges of trespassing into President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida and a cache of suspicious electronics, Ms. Zhang, a financial consultant from China, was convicted on Wednesday on charges of trespassing and lying to federal agents.In an unusual trial that touched on charges of trespassing into President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida and a cache of suspicious electronics, Ms. Zhang, a financial consultant from China, was convicted on Wednesday on charges of trespassing and lying to federal agents.
Ms. Zhang, 33, said she had been planning to attend a party when she showed up in April at Mr. Trump’s private club in Palm Beach. She was caught in the lobby and questioned by the Secret Service, and the authorities eventually determined that she had known before she booked her flight from Shanghai that the party had been canceled.Ms. Zhang, 33, said she had been planning to attend a party when she showed up in April at Mr. Trump’s private club in Palm Beach. She was caught in the lobby and questioned by the Secret Service, and the authorities eventually determined that she had known before she booked her flight from Shanghai that the party had been canceled.
Ms. Zhang was charged with trespassing and lying to a federal agent, but the three-day trial shed little light on the question of whether Ms. Zhang was a spy penetrating a place where the president regularly holds meetings or a tourist on the worst trip of her life. Some information federal prosecutors collected in the case was filed under seal and remains secret.Ms. Zhang was charged with trespassing and lying to a federal agent, but the three-day trial shed little light on the question of whether Ms. Zhang was a spy penetrating a place where the president regularly holds meetings or a tourist on the worst trip of her life. Some information federal prosecutors collected in the case was filed under seal and remains secret.
Against the advice of her public defenders and the judge, Ms. Zhang decided to act as her own lawyer, even though she seemed unfamiliar with the case against her, unversed in federal criminal justice procedures and not completely comfortable speaking English. She presented no witnesses or evidence to explain why she had traveled to Florida with a collection of electronics, including a laptop, an external hard drive, four cellphones and a secret-camera detector.Against the advice of her public defenders and the judge, Ms. Zhang decided to act as her own lawyer, even though she seemed unfamiliar with the case against her, unversed in federal criminal justice procedures and not completely comfortable speaking English. She presented no witnesses or evidence to explain why she had traveled to Florida with a collection of electronics, including a laptop, an external hard drive, four cellphones and a secret-camera detector.
The trial got off to an unusual start on Monday, when during jury selection the judge asked why Ms. Zhang was appearing in court in her jail uniform. It was because she had not been supplied with any undergarments, she said — though her standby public defenders said she had, in fact, been offered a full set of civilian clothing.The trial got off to an unusual start on Monday, when during jury selection the judge asked why Ms. Zhang was appearing in court in her jail uniform. It was because she had not been supplied with any undergarments, she said — though her standby public defenders said she had, in fact, been offered a full set of civilian clothing.
“I do think I did nothing wrong,” Ms. Zhang told the court. “I did not lying. I do think I followed instructions. I went into the Mar-a-Lago to have a visit. That’s what I want to say, so thank you.”“I do think I did nothing wrong,” Ms. Zhang told the court. “I did not lying. I do think I followed instructions. I went into the Mar-a-Lago to have a visit. That’s what I want to say, so thank you.”
Ms. Zhang had paid for a vacation package that included a banquet at Mar-a-Lago. But the gala she had paid to attend had been canceled when news outlets revealed that the Florida woman who had a role in promoting the event had once owned a massage parlor where the owner of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft, was charged with paying for sex acts. Ms. Zhang had paid for a vacation package that included a banquet at Mar-a-Lago. But the gala she had paid to attend had been canceled when news outlets revealed that the Florida woman who had a role in promoting the event had once owned a massage parlor where men, including the owner of the New England Patriots, Robert K. Kraft, were accused of paying for sex acts.
The former owner, Cindy Yang, had sold the parlor and become active in Republican circles in Florida. She bundled donations for Mr. Trump, including some that had the appearance of being illegal donations by straw donors. The event she had been selling tickets to was canceled in the wake of the scandal.The former owner, Cindy Yang, had sold the parlor and become active in Republican circles in Florida. She bundled donations for Mr. Trump, including some that had the appearance of being illegal donations by straw donors. The event she had been selling tickets to was canceled in the wake of the scandal.
The trespassing incident exposed a potential hole in Mr. Trump’s security net, with his frequent operations at a club that also sells tickets to the public as a private banquet hall. Chinese businesspeople had begun snapping up tickets for a chance to hobnob with the president and his family, who attended some of the events.The trespassing incident exposed a potential hole in Mr. Trump’s security net, with his frequent operations at a club that also sells tickets to the public as a private banquet hall. Chinese businesspeople had begun snapping up tickets for a chance to hobnob with the president and his family, who attended some of the events.
Prosecutors said a stream of text messages showed that Ms. Zhang knew the event she purportedly was to attend at Mar-a-Lago had been canceled, which prosecutors said raised questions about her motive for making the trip. A contact of hers in Beijing, she said, had suggested that she go instead to an event featuring Bill and Hillary Clinton, or to another with Warren Buffett.Prosecutors said a stream of text messages showed that Ms. Zhang knew the event she purportedly was to attend at Mar-a-Lago had been canceled, which prosecutors said raised questions about her motive for making the trip. A contact of hers in Beijing, she said, had suggested that she go instead to an event featuring Bill and Hillary Clinton, or to another with Warren Buffett.
“You can meet with these famous people,” the contact wrote, according to the English translation of the texts, introduced in court. “You can stand between them and have your photo taken.” “You can meet with these famous people,” the contact wrote, according to the English translation of the texts, introduced in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. “You can stand between them and have your photo taken.”
“I’m not going,” she wrote back on March 27, after hearing that the Mar-a-Lago event was off. “Forget it,” she wrote in another text shortly afterward, referring to the trip.“I’m not going,” she wrote back on March 27, after hearing that the Mar-a-Lago event was off. “Forget it,” she wrote in another text shortly afterward, referring to the trip.
And yet later that same day, prosecutors said, she bought a plane ticket to the United States — paying more than $2,000 in cash — booked a room at the Colony Hotel in Palm Beach and, once there, made her way to Mr. Trump’s club.And yet later that same day, prosecutors said, she bought a plane ticket to the United States — paying more than $2,000 in cash — booked a room at the Colony Hotel in Palm Beach and, once there, made her way to Mr. Trump’s club.
The trial in Fort Lauderdale focused exclusively on the narrow questions of whether Ms. Zhang trespassed on restricted property and whether she lied to Secret Service agents about why she was there. It did not look at whether she was potentially engaging in espionage — a question that was debated widely in the news media after her arrest.The trial in Fort Lauderdale focused exclusively on the narrow questions of whether Ms. Zhang trespassed on restricted property and whether she lied to Secret Service agents about why she was there. It did not look at whether she was potentially engaging in espionage — a question that was debated widely in the news media after her arrest.
With her conviction, she faces up to one year in prison on the trespassing charge, a misdemeanor, and five years on the charge of making a false statement to a federal agent, a felony. The judge set sentencing for Nov. 22.With her conviction, she faces up to one year in prison on the trespassing charge, a misdemeanor, and five years on the charge of making a false statement to a federal agent, a felony. The judge set sentencing for Nov. 22.
As the trial wrapped up on Tuesday afternoon, the judge asked Ms. Zhang whether she planned to deliver a closing argument in her defense. “Um, I’m not ready,” she replied.As the trial wrapped up on Tuesday afternoon, the judge asked Ms. Zhang whether she planned to deliver a closing argument in her defense. “Um, I’m not ready,” she replied.
“You’re going to have to get ready,” said Judge Roy Altman of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida, with mild impatience. “You’re going to have to get ready,” said Judge Roy Altman, with mild impatience.
In his closing argument, Assistant United States Attorney Rolando Garcia told jurors that “anyone with any sense would have known” that Mar-a-Lago was a restricted, highly protected place, especially when the president was in residence. But such impediments did not deter the defendant, Mr. Garcia said.In his closing argument, Assistant United States Attorney Rolando Garcia told jurors that “anyone with any sense would have known” that Mar-a-Lago was a restricted, highly protected place, especially when the president was in residence. But such impediments did not deter the defendant, Mr. Garcia said.
“She was bound and determined to get on the property,” he went on. “And she lied to everyone to get on that property.”“She was bound and determined to get on the property,” he went on. “And she lied to everyone to get on that property.”
Mr. Garcia said “a bunch of electronics,” including several phones, were found in the defendant’s purse. When asked to explain the devices, Ms. Zhang said she had not wanted to leave them in the hotel in case they got stolen.Mr. Garcia said “a bunch of electronics,” including several phones, were found in the defendant’s purse. When asked to explain the devices, Ms. Zhang said she had not wanted to leave them in the hotel in case they got stolen.
“But that was clearly a lie,” Mr. Garcia said, noting that when officers searched her hotel room, they found more electronic devices and $8,000 in cash.“But that was clearly a lie,” Mr. Garcia said, noting that when officers searched her hotel room, they found more electronic devices and $8,000 in cash.