The mysterious Chinese woman who tried and failed to enter Mar-a-Lago back in March was convicted of lying to Secret Service agents and of trespassing on Wednesday, in a trial that saw the 33-year old fire her public defenders and represent herself.
Yujing Zhang faces a maximum sentence of six years in prison over the charges, which raised glaring questions over the nexus of access peddling and potential security issues at the President’s private club in Florida.
The trial got off to a weird start on Monday, with a wardrobe malfunction involving Zhang. But the trial ended after just a few days, and jurors deliberated for four and a half hours on Wednesday before delivering their verdict.
Zhang, a Shanghai businesswoman, was arrested in March after telling Secret Service agents that she was a member of Mar-a-Lago.
In reality, Zhang was trying to attend an event that had been cancelled, and which had been promoted by south Florida massage mogul Cindy Yang. During searches of Zhang’s belongings, federal agents found a device that could detect hidden cameras, four cellphones, a laptop, external hard drive, thousands of dollars in cash, and multiple credit and debit cards. When Secret Service agents examined the hard drive, they found that it contained an “aggressive” form of malware.
At trial, prosecutors said that Zhang later lied about not knowing that the event she intended to attend was cancelled. The government reportedly cited text messages in which she was informed of the cancellation and demanded a refund before her abortive attempt to enter Mar-a-Lago.
All this led to suspicions that Zhang may have been some kind of Chinese intelligence asset, though experts familiar with skullduggery suggested that her attempt was too clumsy to be that of a professional.
Zhang made strange choices throughout the case, ranging from firing her public defenders to switching from speaking though a Mandarin Chinese translator to halting English.
Judge Roy Altman reportedly grew frustrated with her conduct at various points, reportedly telling her to “stop playing games.”