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Judge allows suspected Mar-a-Lago intruder to represent herself at trial

Posted at 8:00 PM, Jun 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-11 19:20:25-04

PALM BEACH, Fla. — A judge ruled on Tuesday that a Chinese woman accused of illegally gaining entry to President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort on Palm Beach can represent herself at trial.

33-year-old Yujing Zhang appeared in federal court in Fort Lauderdale, where U.S. District Judge Roy Altman granted her request to serve as her own attorney.


"I think she’s making a very bad decision," Judge Altman said in court.

At the start of Tuesday's hearing, Judge Altman asked Zhang if she wants to be her own attorney.

"Yes," Zhang answered in English. "I want to do it by myself."

Judge Altman then asked Zhang if she understands how a trial works.

"I can work it out," Zhang replied in English.

A public defender appointed to represent Zhang told Judge Altman she believes Zhang made the decision rationally and competently.

Judge Altman set Zhang's trial date for Aug. 19.

Zhang pleaded not guilty to charges of entering restricted property and lying to a federal agent.

Last month, a psychologist determined Zhang is competent to represent herself.

Investigators said Zhang lied her way into Mar-a-Lago on March 30 by falsely telling security she was a member and was going to swim. She also told a front desk clerk she was there for a nonexistent Chinese/American event, the Secret Service said.

Zhang was arrested after agents said they found her carrying four cell phones, an external hard drive, and a thumb drive thought to have had malware installed on it. It was later determined there was no malware on the thumb drive, prosecutors said.

Federal prosecutor Rolando Garcia said agents found a device in Zhang's hotel room that could detect hidden cameras. They also found $8,000 in U.S. and Chinese currency, nine USB drives, five USB cards, and several credit cards in her name, according to Garcia.

Prosecutors said Zhang has no ties to South Florida, and it's unclear what her motive was. She previously visited the U.S. in Sept. 2018, Dec. 2017, and July 2016, according to prosecutors.