The Chinese woman charged with lying her way into U.S. President Donald Trump’s Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, told a judge on May 21 she wants to fire her attorneys and represent herself in an upcoming criminal trial.
Zhang Yujing, 33, told U.S. District Judge Roy Altman at a routine hearing on May 21 that she wants to dismiss her public defenders and represent herself, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
In April, Zhang was charged with lying to federal agents and illegally entering a restricted area. She faces up to five years in prison for the former, and one year imprisonment for the latter offense.
“I don’t need the attorneys, thank you,” Zhang told Altman through an interpreter, AP reported.
“Do you want to represent yourself or do you want a lawyer?” the judge asked.
“Today, I don’t want the attorney,” Zhang replied. Zhang did not say why.
Assistant public defender Kristy Militello told the judge that Zhang, who was denied bail, has refused to see her attorneys, the outlet reported. During the hearing, the public defender also voiced concerns about Zhang’s mental health.
Altman said Zhang had to be examined by a psychiatrist before he could allow her to dismiss her attorneys. If Zhang is assessed as mentally competent, then she could represent herself, the judge said.
Zhang’s attorneys also requested for the trial’s May 28 start date to be pushed back, saying they needed more time to prepare her defense as many of the documents are in Chinese, AP reported. The judge indicated he would grant the postponement.
Zhang, a Shanghai-based business consultant, was charged after she managed to pass a security checkpoint at Trump’s resort on March 30. She had told Secret Service staff at the initial checkpoint that she was at the resort to use the pool, but her story changed when she made it to the resort’s reception, according to court documents.
Prosecutors said Zhang told reception that she was at the resort to attend a “United Nations Chinese American Association” event, which she knew was already canceled.
At the time of arrest, Zhang was carrying four cellphones, a laptop computer, an external hard drive, and a thumb drive containing computer malware, prosecutors said. Zhang told agents that she was afraid the electronics would get stolen if she left it in her hotel room.
Later in her hotel room, Secret Service agents found a device for detecting hidden cameras, nine USB drives, five SIM cards, and $8,000 in cash, prosecutors said.
Zhang’s public defender, Robert Adler, suggested at a previous hearing in April that Zhang might not have been lying to agents but confused by the language barrier. But a Secret Service agent said in court documents that Zhang was able to speak and read English with ease during questioning.
Her public defenders have said she came to Mar-a-Lago believing there would be a dinner that evening for the United Nations group (no relation to the U.N.), as part of a $20,000 travel package she had purchased from a man named “Charles” whom she only knew through social media. They pointed to a receipt Zhang received from Charles Lee, a Chinese national who promotes such events at Mar-a-Lago; and a flyer promoting the event that was in her possession.
Lee ran the United Nations Chinese Friendship Association, a group with ties to the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front Work Department. The agency is charged with spreading Beijing’s agenda overseas.
According to the Miami Herald, Lee had connections with Yang Li, a Chinese native and former Florida massage parlor owner. Yang made headlines recently after it was revealed that she ran a consulting firm promising Chinese business leaders access to Trump via events at Mar-a-Lago. Lee would recruit clients for events that Yang sold access to, the outlet reported.
The Epoch Times previously reported that Yang also has ties to the Chinese regime. In 2016, she became deputy president of the Florida branch of the Council for the Promotion of the Peaceful Reunification of China (CPPRC)—a group that also operates under the United Front.
Trump was visiting Mar-a-Lago on the weekend of Zhang’s arrest, but was at his nearby golf club for the duration of her entry into the premises.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.