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Intruder at Trump's Mar-a-Lago club leaves jail, faces deportation to China

Jay Weaver and Nicholas Nehamas, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

MIAMI -- A Chinese businesswoman who was incarcerated for eight months for trespassing at President Donald Trump's Palm Beach club was transferred Wednesday from a federal lock-up to the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation to China.

Yujing Zhang, 33, was moved to the Glades County Detention Center in Moore Haven after being held at the Paul Rein Detention Facility in Broward County following her sentencing last week, according to an ICE website.

It was not clear when Zhang, who faces a removal proceeding, would be deported to China.

Zhang was sentenced to eight months behind bars -- essentially time served. She had been found guilty in September of entering a restricted area at Mar-a-Lago and lying to Secret Service agents about it. She was arrested on the day of her visit, March 30, and denied a bond because she was deemed a flight risk to China.

Zhang was accused at her trial of bluffing her way into Trump's private club by saying she was going to the pool and then insisting that she was visiting to attend a gala event at Mar-a-Lago even though she knew the gala had been canceled before she left China days earlier.

In handing down the sentence, U.S. District Judge Roy Altman rejected a request by the U.S. attorney's office that he sentence her to one and a half years.

At her sentencing, Zhang said federal prosecutors misrepresented why she was visiting Mar-a-Lago, claiming her only purpose was to meet the president and his family. "I already said I come to meet the president and his family and make friends," Zhang said in halting English.

"You wanted to come to make friends with the president and his family?" Altman asked her with bewilderment.

Zhang chuckled, saying yes. But she then suggested that Trump said after she was arrested that she had received an invitation to his private club -- a dubious assertion that further puzzled the judge.

 

Altman also asked Zhang about all of the electronic devices, from laptops to cellphones to a signal detector -- used to detect hidden cameras and microphones -- that were found on her or in her Palm Beach hotel room after her arrest. "Why did you have the signal detection device?" he asked.

"I'm just cautious ... because I'm a female ... for my security," Zhang told the judge.

Her sentence ended a bizarre court case in which the defendant, a woman with limited English skills and no legal training, represented herself -- clumsily and ineffectively, for the most part.

She had fired the public defender's office, though she was still receiving advice on the side at the sentencing hearing from Assistant Federal Public Defender Kristy Militello. Militello said there was "nothing nefarious" about Zhang's visit to Mar-a-Lago -- that she had a "fantastical idea" about proposing a business partnership with Trump and his family. She would never meet them during her short-lived visit.

(c)2019 Miami Herald

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