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 ‘Not a wandering tourist’: Guilty verdict for woman accused of trespass at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago

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‘Not a wandering tourist’: Guilty verdict for woman accused of trespass at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago  Vide
PostSubject: ‘Not a wandering tourist’: Guilty verdict for woman accused of trespass at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago    ‘Not a wandering tourist’: Guilty verdict for woman accused of trespass at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago  Icon_minitimeWed Sep 11, 2019 9:24 pm

A Chinese businesswoman was found guilty Wednesday of trespassing at Mar-a-Lago and lying to a federal agent about why she was at President Donald Trump’s private Palm Beach club, capping a bizarre federal trial where the enigmatic defendant’s true purpose in coming to the resort was never answered.

‘Not a wandering tourist’: Guilty verdict for woman accused of trespass at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago  Zhang%20Yujing%202010

Was Yujing Zhang, 33, just a bumbling tourist or an agent of Beijing’s government? One thing is certain: Zhang, who has been in federal custody since her arrest March 30, now faces up to one year in prison on the trespassing charge and five years on the false-statement offense. She showed no reaction to the verdict.

The 12-member jury deliberated for four-and-a-half hours after a two-day trial in which federal prosecutors accused Zhang of being so bent on entering the posh club to meet Trump that she lied to Secret Service agents and Mar-a-Lago staff, telling them she wanted to attend a gala event she knew had been canceled before she left China. The text messages on her iPhone 7 showed that Zhang not only had learned the Mar-a-Lago event was canceled, but also that she had asked the trip organizer for a refund, according to trial evidence.

“She said she was there for a United Nations friendship event. Well, that was a clear lie,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Rolando Garcia told the jurors during closing arguments Tuesday. “She was bound and determined to get on that property. ... She lied to everybody to get on that property.”

Zhang, who did not put on a defense, did declare her innocence during closing arguments, saying she had a contract to attend a United Nations friendship event between the United States and China at the Mar-a-Lago club. “I do think I did nothing wrong,” said Zhang, speaking in English. “I did no lying.”

During the trial in Fort Lauderdale federal court, Zhang spoke occasionally in halting English and in Mandarin to raise an objection or ask U.S. District Judge Roy Altman a question about the government’s evidence. While it was apparent that Altman, a former federal prosecutor recently appointed by Trump to the federal bench, tried to give Zhang a fair trial, it seemed clear that Zhang’s decision to fire her assistant public defenders sealed her fate from the outset.

Before she was escorted out of the courtroom back to her jail cell, Zhang gave her former attorneys, Robert Adler and Kristy Militello, a weak smile. Both lawyers, at the request of the judge, provided behind-the-scenes advice during the trial.

Zhang’s trial began in unusual fashion Monday when she showed up in a jail uniform rather than the civilian clothes that had been provided to her. She complained about not having any “undergarments” to wear. Altman allowed her to change into khaki slacks and a blouse, and the trial got under way.

Zhang, who says she is a successful businesswoman from Shanghai, is also under scrutiny from a federal counterintelligence investigation, although she has not been charged with spying. The secret “national security” investigation — reflected in government evidence that has been filed under seal in Zhang’s trespassing case — never came up at trial. That probe, delving into possible Chinese espionage at Mar-a-Lago and elsewhere in South Florida, will continue even though the trespassing trial is finished and Zhang’s sentencing is set for Nov. 22.

Trial evidence showed that Zhang bluffed her way past two security checkpoints before she was allowed to enter Mar-a-Lago after 12 p.m. on March 30. Initially, she told Secret Service agents and club staff that she was going to the pool. Her last name — one of the most common in China — happened to match that of a member, so they let her in. That likely led jurors to debate whether she had in fact been allowed on the premises and had therefore not trespassed.

https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/article234961982.html
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‘Not a wandering tourist’: Guilty verdict for woman accused of trespass at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago

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