The upcoming trial of a Chinese national on federal charges that she trespassed at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and lied to the Secret Service is potentially a circus wrapped in mystery.
Rejecting the strong recommendation of U.S. District Judge Roy Altman, Yujing Zhang fired her public defenders in June to act as her own attorney – a longshot move the 33-year-old Shanghai business consultant has struggled with during pretrial hearings setting up Monday’s scheduled jury selection.
Zhang often frustrates Altman by ignoring his questions or answering with non sequiturs. At times she replies in near-fluent English and insists she understands complex legal concepts, but will then say she doesn’t understand a simple question and turns to her Mandarin translator.
“I know full well that you understand what I am saying to you both in English and in Mandarin,” Altman told her during an August hearing. “You are trying to play games.”