FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (Reuters) – A Chinese language girl accused of hoodwinking U.S. Secret Service brokers to achieve unlawful entry to President Donald Trump’s Florida resort repeated her assertion that she “did nothing improper” as her federal court docket trial was handed to a jury on Tuesday.
FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Membership is proven forward of the arrival of Hurricane Dorian in Palm Seashore, Florida, U.S., August 31, 2019. REUTERS/Joe Skipper/File Picture
The actions of Yujing Zhang, 33, at Trump’s non-public Mar-a-Lago membership in March sparked considerations that she may need been a spy, though she was charged solely with trespassing and making false statements. Prosecutors have supplied no rationalization in court docket for her motives.
They targeted as an alternative on attempting to show she used deception to achieve illegal entry to non-public property.
Zhang, who prosecutors mentioned was carrying a number of digital gadgets when arrested, insisted she was entitled to admission to Mar-a-Lago due to a contract for which she had paid $20,000 to attend a U.S.-China financial growth occasion on the resort.
“I made a contract to go to Mar-a-Lago and see the president and his household, and I do suppose it’s the truth that I did nothing improper,” she advised jurors in halting English as she delivered a quick summation of her protection on the second day of her trial.
Zhang took the weird method of serving as her personal lawyer for the proceedings, with a public defender assigned to her in court docket performing as a authorized adviser.
“I didn’t lie,” she mentioned. “I went into Mar-a-Lago and had a go to, and that’s what I wished to say. Thanks.” She delivered a equally succinct denial of wrongdoing in her opening assertion on Monday.
In closing arguments for the federal government, Assistant U.S. Lawyer Rolando Garcia countered that Zhang had been notified prematurely by the corporate sponsoring the occasion that it had been canceled and that she had demanded her a refund. He cited digital messages retrieved by the FBI from her cellphone.
Rolando additionally detailed how Zhang allegedly bluffed her approach by means of Secret Service and resort safety checkpoints onto the membership grounds in Palm Seashore, Florida, partially by passing herself off because the relative of an precise membership member of the identical title.
“She was sure and decided to get on that property,” Rolando mentioned. “She knew she wasn’t alleged to be there.”
‘WEIRD AND STRANGE’
The trial in a federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale was recessed for the day after U.S. District Decide Roy Altman instructed the 12-member jury. The panel was attributable to start its deliberations on Wednesday morning.
Entrance-desk Mar-a-Lago receptionist Ariela Grumaz testified earlier on Tuesday that Zhang “was performing very bizarre and unusual” throughout her March 30 go to.
The Chinese language nationwide ignored a “no filming” signal and, utilizing her cellular phone, captured video of the ornate foyer as she strolled inside, elevating suspicions and prompting Grumaz to induce safety personnel to look at her.
Zhang, sporting a night costume within the early afternoon, started texting on her cellular phone and Grumaz requested her to depart. She calmly walked outdoors and was instantly surrounded by Secret Service brokers.
“That’s what struck me. She was completely in management,” Grumaz advised jurors.
Zhang, who at occasions appeared bewildered throughout her trial, faces as much as six years in jail if convicted.
She had 4 cellphones, a laptop computer pc, an exterior arduous drive system and a thumb drive in her possession on the time of her arrest, the Secret Service mentioned in a court docket submitting. Preliminary examination of the thumb drive decided it contained “malicious malware,” the Secret Service mentioned.
A subsequent search of Zhang’s Palm Seashore resort room reportedly uncovered a tool meant to detect hidden cameras and practically $eight,000 in money.
Trump visited Mar-a-Lago the weekend Zhang was arrested however was taking part in golf throughout her time on the property.
The Chinese language International Ministry has mentioned it had no data of any connection between Zhang and the Beijing authorities and was leaving it to U.S. authorities to “deal with the case in accordance with the regulation, pretty and appropriately.”
Reporting by Erik Bojnansky in Fort Lauderdale; Writing by Barbara Goldberg and Steve Gorman; Enhancing by Scott Malone, Cynthia Osterman and Paul Tait