The trial for Chinese national and alleged Mar-a-Lago trespasser Yujing Zhang has been delayed until early next month, following a bizarre pretrial hearing in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Tuesday afternoon.
During the hearing Zhang, who had previously dismissed her public defenders, at times appeared to not hear the judge, refused to answer some questions verbally, claimed she was feeling "sick" and "dizzy," and generally didn't cooperate with the proceedings.
"I'm not available today," she said.
U.S. Judge Roy Altman of Florida's Southern District accused Zhang of "playing games" with the court.
Earlier Tuesday prosecutors filed documents related to the case, such as jury instructions and witness and evidence lists, but Zhang has not done so. When asked about her lack of filing by the judge, Zhang appeared not to know what the judge was talking about.
During the hearing, the government said they would waive a jury trial and allow the judge to rule directly on the case, and Zhang was asked if she wanted a jury to decide her case or for the judge to rule.
"Maybe I don't need that many people to make that decision," she said.
"I'm not in my right mind," she added, in an apparent reference to her feeling ill.
Zhang, who previously told the court she worked as a consultant in China, is accused of trespassing onto the grounds of Mar-a-Lago, President Donald Trump's Florida country club, in late March after she was mistakenly allowed in by Mar-a-Lago staff. In addition to the purported trespassing, prosecutors allege she lied to Secret Service officers as she was let through checkpoints. She was only discovered when a receptionist realized her name was not on the access list for the club.
When Zhang was detained, investigators said they found several electronic devices on her and in her room at a local hotel, purportedly including a device to detect hidden cameras. Early on, prosecutors suggested Zhang was being investigated for potential links to espionage, but no further charges have been brought. Before they were dismissed, public defenders for Zhang argued the whole thing was a misunderstanding and said she had not made "direct misrepresentations" to federal agents as alleged.
Zhang pleaded not guilty in April, but was ordered held in detention in Florida ahead of her trial.
In Tuesday's hearing, Judge Altman told Zhang she has until Aug. 20 to decide if she wants a jury trial and then has until Aug. 30 to file whatever pretrial documents she wants to file or object to anything in the government documents. Her trial date was reset to Sept. 3.
Karen D’Uva is a freelance producer based in Florida.