Chinese woman arrested at Mar-a-Lago found guilty

Inmate photo of Yujing ZhangImage copyright
Broward County Sheriff’s Office

Image caption

Yujing Zhang

A Chinese woman has been found guilty of trespassing at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in Florida and of lying to a federal agent.

Yujing Zhang, 33, was arrested in March and was found carrying several electronic devices.

She faces up to six years in prison when she is sentenced in November.

Zhang, who acted as her own lawyer, maintained her innocence during her closing arguments, telling the court: “I did nothing wrong.”

Her trial in Florida saw several odd moments. Despite the judge’s attempts to persuade her otherwise, Zhang fired her public counsel, choosing to represent herself.

She often appeared not entirely comfortable speaking in English, was also accused of pretending not to understand proceedings.

On Monday, Zhang arrived in court in her jail uniform instead of civilian clothes, complaining she had not been provided with undergarments. Judge Altman allowed her to change before the trial began.

What happened at Mar-a-Lago?

Zhang was arrested on 30 March at the president’s club carrying two Chinese passports, a computer and four mobile phones, among other devices, agents said.

She was also initially accused of carrying a device loaded with malware, but agents rescinded that claim.

Zhang had told security at Mar-a-Lago that she was there to go to the pool, and later told a receptionist she was there for a United Nations event that prosecutors argued she knew had been cancelled, according to court documents.

“Due to a potential language barrier issue,” staff believed she was related to a club member and let her in, the documents said.

Zhang told agents she had been instructed by a friend, identified only as “Charles”, to travel from Shanghai, China, to Palm Beach to attend the purported United Nations event, but did not provide any more details.

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Media captionMar-a-Lago is a private members club as well as the Trump family’s winter getaway.

She said “Charles” had encouraged her to attempt to speak to a member of the president’s family about Chinese-American economic relations, according to an affidavit.

Despite the guilty verdict the trial did not establish why exactly she was at President Trump’s resort.

Mr Trump was in Palm Beach at the time of her arrest, though he had been staying at Mar-a-Lago that weekend.

Prosecutors said among the electronics Zhang possessed were numerous USB drives and a device that could detect secret cameras.

She initially told agents she did not want to leave the items at her hotel out of fear they would be stolen, but police later found around $8,000 (£6,500) in cash and more electronics in her hotel room.

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