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.


India celebrates Republic Day with military parade

Updated 15 min 46 sec ago

India celebrates Republic Day with military parade

  • Schoolchildren, folk dancers, and police and military battalions marched through New Delhi’s parade route

NEW DELHI: Thousands of Indians converged on a ceremonial boulevard in the capital amid tight security to celebrate the Republic Day on Sunday, which marks the 1950 anniversary of the country’s democratic constitution.
During the celebrations, schoolchildren, folk dancers, and police and military battalions marched through New Delhi’s parade route, followed by a military hardware display.
Beyond the show of military power, the parade also included ornate floats highlighting India’s cultural diversity as men, women and children in colorful dresses performed traditional dances, drawing applause from the spectators.
The 90-minute event, broadcast live, was watched by millions of Indians on their television sets across the country.
Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro was the chief guest for this year’s celebrations.
He was accorded the ceremonial Guard of Honor by President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Rashtrapati Bhawan, the sprawling presidential palace.
Bolsonaro joined the two Indian leaders as the military parade marched through a central avenue near the Presidential Palace.
At the parade, Bolsonaro watched keenly as mechanized columns of Indian tanks, rocket launchers, locally made nuclear-capable missile systems and other hardware rolled down the parade route and air force jets sped by overhead.
Apart from attending the Republic Day celebrations, Bolsonaro’s visit was also aimed at strengthening trade and investment ties across a range of fields between the two countries.
On Saturday, Modi and Bolsonaro reached an agreement to promote investment in each other’s country.
Before the parade, Modi paid homage to fallen soldiers at the newly built National War Memorial in New Delhi as the national capital was put under tight security cover.
Smaller parades were also held in the state capitals.
Police said five grenades were lobbed in the eastern Assam state by separatist militants who have routinely boycotted the Republic Day celebrations. No one was injured, police said.
Sunday’s blasts also come at a time when Assam has been witnessing continuous protests against the new citizenship law that have spread to many Indian states.
The law approved in December provides a fast-track to naturalization for persecuted religious minorities from some neighboring Islamic countries, but excludes Muslims.
Nationwide protests have brought tens of thousands of people from different faiths and backgrounds together, in part because the law is seen by critics as part of a larger threat to the secular fabric of Indian society.