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Yujing Zhang, Chinese woman accused of entering Mar-a-Lago illegally, allowed to be her own attorney

Woman denies spying for China at Mar-a-Lago
Woman denies she was spying for China at Mar-a-Lago 02:03

A Chinese woman charged with illegally entering President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort will be allowed to act as her own attorney. U.S. District Judge Roy Altman granted Yujing Zhang's request Tuesday to fire her public defenders and represent herself.

Altman found Zhang competent and intelligent, but strongly tried to talk her out of her decision. She insisted, however.

She asked that the hearing in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, be conducted in English but struggled at times understanding the judge. For example, she didn't know "counsel" is a synonym for lawyer.

Altman ordered that she be provided with law books and the evidence against her. He told her to study.

Zhang stunned Altman last month by saying she wanted represent herself. He tried to dissuade her but said he would allow it if she were found competent.

Assistant federal public defender Kristy Militello wrote in court documents last week that Zhang wouldn't meet with a psychologist, but has appeared mentally competent in interviews with her attorneys.

The 33-year-old Zhang has pleaded not guilty to charges of trespassing March 30 at Mar-a-Lago and lying to Secret Service agents. A federal judge denied bail for Zhang, saying there was an "extreme risk of flight" if she were released.

When arrested on March 30, Zhang was carrying two passports, four cellphones, a laptop, an external hard drive and a thumb drive possibly containing malware. In her hotel room, Secret Service agents found a device for detecting hidden cameras and $8,000 cash. She is not charged with espionage, but the FBI is still investigating, and prosecutors say that future charges are possible. 

Zhang was indicted in April on charges of lying to federal agent and illegal entering of a restricted area. She faces up to five years if convicted.

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