The trial of alleged Mar-a-Lago intruder and supposed Chinese “spy” Yujing Zhang started with a bout of the bizarre that has become typical of the case, briefly delaying proceedings.
The Miami Herald and other outlets reported that a Fort Lauderdale federal judge briefly delayed proceedings Monday amid questions over Zhang’s appearance in court in prison garb.
The 33-year old Chinese citizen is representing herself in the case, and lacks full mastery of the English language.
Through an interpreter, Zhang reportedly told the judge that she had been forced to appear in her prison jumpsuit because the jail didn’t provide her with “undergarments.” The Miami Herald reported that she had been given her pre-arrest clothing.
“You should wear your civilian clothes so the jurors don’t see you in your prison garb,” the judge reportedly told Zhang. He added that jurors seeing Zhang in prison clothes could prejudice them against her, according to the Miami Herald.
After Zhang changed into civilian clothes, the judge informed Zhang that prospective jurors would enter the courtroom.
At that point, the alleged Mar-a-Lago intruder told the courtroom that she thought her trial had been cancelled.
The judge then asked if she wanted a public defender present in the courtroom to represent her, to which Zhang reportedly replied: “I don’t think so.”
According to the Miami Herald, prospective jurors were then brought into the courtroom to begin the jury-selection process.
Zhang was charged in March with lying to federal officials after an abortive attempt she made to enter Mar-a-Lago. FBI agents found a device in her south Florida hotel room supposedly capable of detecting hidden cameras, while a USB drive that the Secret Service obtained from her allegedly contained aggressive malware.
All of those findings fueled concerns that Zhang may have been acting in concert with Chinese intelligence. But in a search of Zhang’s property, FBI agents discovered another thing: that she had bought a ticket to attend a cancelled event at Mar-a-Lago from Cindy Yang, the south Florida massage parlor magnate who peddled access to the GOP while belonging to organizations affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party.
Throughout the case, Zhang has made bizarre choices — like choosing to represent herself in court — that have raised enduring questions about her mental health.
The case, meanwhile, raised serious concerns about counterintelligence vulnerabilities at Mar-a-Lago.