Chinese 'intruder' at Trump resort allowed to be her own attorney

World | ASSOCIATED PRESS 13 Jun 2019

A Chinese woman charged with illegally entering President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort will be allowed to act as her own attorney, a judge ruled after strenuously trying to talk her out of it as she struggled with legal concepts and spoken English.

US District Judge Roy Altman found Zhang Yujing to be competent and intelligent, granting her request to fire her public defenders and be her own lawyer, as is her legal right. But he also ordered her attorneys to remain on standby, sit in the gallery at all hearings, assist if she requests help and resume their roles if she changes her mind.

Zhang, a 33-year-old Shanghai business consultant, has pleaded not guilty to charges of trespassing on March 30 at Mar-a-Lago and lying to Secret Service agents when they confronted her. They say she was carrying a computer, mobile phones and other electronics and had additional gear and significant cash in her hotel room, but she has not been charged with espionage.

Zhang faces up to six years in prison and US$250,000 (HK$1.95 million) in fines if convicted. She is being held without bond.

The judge did his best during the hour-long hearing to dissuade Zhang, but she said she had studied Chinese law for a few months several years ago and has done some reading on American law since her arrest. Zhang also insisted that the hearing be conducted without a Mandarin translator, but she struggled at times with the English language.

Giving Zhang one last chance to change her mind, Altman pointed out that her public defenders, Kristy Militello and Robert Adler, are good attorneys and had already done some excellent work on her behalf.

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