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The trial of a Chinese woman arrested on charges of trespassing at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and then lying to Secret Service agents continued Tuesday with witness testimony detailing the defendant’s strange behavior prior to her arrest.
Yujing Zhang appeared again in court after an unusual first day, which included a brief delay due to an underwear snafu. She then proclaimed her innocence and thanked the U.S. in a 20-second opening statement – quite possibly one of the shortest in recorded legal history.
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“I don’t believe I did anything wrong and that’s what I want to say. USA, thank you,” the 33-year-old Shanghai business consultant said Monday.
Zhang is accused of trespassing at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club and lying to Secret Service agents. (Daniel Pontet via AP, File)
On Tuesday, Mar-a-Lago receptionist Ariela Grumaz testified that Zhang was acting “weird and strange” on March 30, prompting her to confront the Chinese national and alert the Secret Service.
Zhang made herself conspicuous by taking photos and video inside the lavish lobby in violation of rules while wearing a gray evening dress at 1 p.m., Grumaz said. After calling agents, Grumaz said Zhang went into a women’s restroom, where she found her pacing and frantically sending text messages.
Sam Ivanovich, the agent Grumaz had alerted, testified that Zhang was carrying a computer, cellphones and other electronics. He also testified that agents later found a signal detector meant to spot hidden cameras and a significant amount of cash stashed in her area hotel room.
Zhang has repeatedly upheld her innocence despite facing up to six years in prison. (Broward Sheriff’s Office)
Ivanovich said her story didn’t add up when agents questioned her. Zhang had told him she arrived early to take photos of the property before a United Nations Friendship event, even after she was repeatedly told no such event was scheduled, he said.
She seemingly contradicted an earlier statement that she was there to use the pool, although she didn’t have a swimsuit in her possession, Ivanovich testified.
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After the 33-year-old became “aggressive” toward agents, she was taken to the Secret Service’s West Palm Beach office, he said. She told agents there that her invitation to the Friendship event was part of a package she purchased from a man she knew only as “Charles” through a Chinese Internet service similar to Facebook.
A translator was set to testify later Tuesday that Charles sent two messages to Zhang before she left China saying the event was canceled, prosecutors said.
Zhang said she was attending a UN Friendship event at Mar-a-Lago, although no such event was scheduled, according to witness testimony. (iStock)
Zhang has pleaded not guilty to charges of unlawful entry and making false statements. She faces up to six years in prison if convicted.
She fired her public defenders in June against the recommendation of U.S. District Judge Roy Altman in order to represent herself with the use of a translator.
Altman stepped in on her behalf on one occasion Tuesday when a defense attorney would have objected to prosecutor questions about what Zhang’s behavior has to do with the charges. He ultimately allowed the line of questioning to stand.
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Zhang, who has usually been silent, attempted to object a few times, challenging the introduction of Mar-a-Lago photos and her cellphone, saying they were “sensitive.” Altman rejected her challenges.
Meanwhile, China’s foreign affairs ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Tuesday that anyone who believes Zhang is a spy is engaged in “science fiction.” She demanded the U.S. handle the case “in a fair and proper manner according to the law.”
Fox News’ Greg Norman, Travis Fedschun and Samuel Chamberlain and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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