Chinese woman in Mar-a-Lago trespassing case: ‘I don’t know why I’m here’

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Updated 10 September 2019

Chinese woman in Mar-a-Lago trespassing case: ‘I don’t know why I’m here’

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida: A Chinese national arrested for bluffing her way onto US President Donald Trump’s Florida resort went on trial acting as her own attorney on Monday, telling jurors in her brief opening statement, “I don’t believe I did anything wrong.”
The defendant, Yujing Zhang, 33, appeared before US District Judge Roy Altman and a 12-member jury in a Fort Lauderdale courtroom on charges of making false statements to a federal officer and trespassing on restricted property.
Zhang — whose arrest at the Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach in March while carrying multiple electronic devices sparked a probe as to whether she posed an intelligence threat — faces up to six years in federal prison if convicted.
Her unorthodox decision to serve as her own trial lawyer, while a public defender stood by only to advise her, clearly rankled the judge and slowed the pace of the proceedings.
“I don’t know why I’m here ... I think the trial has been canceled,” Zhang said at one point through her translator, prompting a sharp retort from Altman.
“You’re unprepared,” the judge answered. “The trial is going to get very sophisticated very quickly ... I strongly recommend (the public defender) step in as your lawyer today.”
When the time came for opening statements, Zhang rose from her seat and said simply: “Good afternoon, judge ... jury. What I want to say is I don’t believe I did anything wrong and I want to say thank you.”

’Extremely savvy’
In his own opening, Assistant US Attorney Michael Sherwin offered no motive or explanation for Zhang’s Mar-a-Lago visit, but told jurors she had lied to gain entry to the resort.
“She is very proficient in English. She is extremely educated, very sharp, and extremely savvy,” Sherwin told jurors, adding that the club’s receptionist remembered her as being “extremely calm, cool and collected.”
According to Sherwin and testimony by two US Secret Service agents, Zhang got through an initial Secret Service checkpoint by letting club security personnel believe she was related to an actual club member of the same name.
Once on the grounds, her behavior, including the taking of a lot of photographs, aroused suspicion, and she was taken into custody, Sherwin and prosecution witnesses said.
During jury selection earlier in the day, the judge urged potential panelists to set aside their politics from the facts of the case.
“Whether you like President Trump or don’t like President Trump, whether you like Mar-a-Lago or think it should be blown up, or something in between” has nothing to do with the trial, Altman said.
At the time of Zhang’s arrest, in an incident that raised concerns about resort security, investigators found in Zhang’s possession four cellphones, a laptop computer, an external hard drive device and a thumb drive, the Secret Service said in a court filing. Initial examination of the thumb drive determined it contained “malicious malware,” the Secret Service said.
After the trove of electronics was found on Zhang, a search of her Palm Beach hotel room reportedly uncovered a device meant to detect hidden cameras and nearly $8,000 in cash.


Purdue says files for bankruptcy in bid to settle opioid crisis cases

Updated 12 min 42 sec ago

Purdue says files for bankruptcy in bid to settle opioid crisis cases

  • The pharmaceutical giant whose prescription painkiller OxyContin is blamed for much of the US opioid addiction epidemic, is facing thousands of state and federal lawsuits
  • The company said that it had filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the US Bankruptcy Code

NEW YORK: Purdue Pharma is to file for bankruptcy in a settlement agreement that it hopes will provide more than $10 billion to address the opioid crisis, the company said in a statement on Sunday.

The pharmaceutical giant whose prescription painkiller OxyContin is blamed for much of the US opioid addiction epidemic, is facing thousands of state and federal lawsuits.

The settlement, which is subject to court approval, will contribute Purdue’s entire value to a body established for the benefit of the claimants and the American people.

Purdue Chairman Steve Miller said the settlement will “provide billions of dollars and critical resources to communities across the country trying to cope with the opioid crisis.”

The company said that it had filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the US Bankruptcy Code and that the board of a new company would be selected by claimants and approved by the Bankruptcy Court.

Miller said the restructuring will avoid “wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and years on protracted litigation.” As part of the settlement, the company says it will potentially contribute millions of addiction treatment drugs to the public at no or low cost, such as nalmefene and naloxone.

As well as giving up control of Purdue, the settlement will also see the wealthy Sackler family personally contribute $3 billion, with the potential for further contributions.