The Chinese woman who allegedly lied her way into Mar-a-Lago toting a cache of cellphones and malware last spring is not making friends with the judge overseeing her case–and it’s reportedly a matter of fashion.
According to the Miami Herald, Yujing Zhang upset U.S. District Judge Roy Altman during a recent round of jury selection due to her decision to forego civilian clothes in favor of a brown inmate’s uniform.
Altman’s first question for the defendant? Why was she wearing an outfit supplied to her by the Broward County Jail instead of her normal clothes?
Speaking in Mandarin, Zhang said she was lacking in “undergarments” and underwear.
“You have no undergarments in your cell?” Altman asked.
“No,” Zhang replied.
“You should wear your civilian clothes so the jurors don’t see you in your prison garb,” Altman advised the defendant, noting that appearing in her inmate’s uniform could potentially prejudice the jury against her. Zhang then said she didn’t understand what Altman was trying to convey.
“You were given the choice of changing into your civilian clothing, which is your right by the way,” Altman said, according to the Washington Examiner. “I wanted you to have the option of wearing civilian clothing, but my understanding is that you’ve refused.”
A bit of confusion ensued and Altman chastised Zhang that she had better listen to her Mandarin interpreter or “we could be here for a year.”
Zhang eventually said she was embarrassed by the reason over her initial clothing choice.
“Unless you provide the full clothing, I don’t want to change back because of a woman issue,” the defendant said.
“Right now you’re wearing no undergarments, I suppose?” Altman asked. Zhang said that she was–but needed new ones.
The scene was eventually settled down after Assistant Federal Public Defender Kristy Militello told Altman that Zhang should have additional undergarments–including a bra and panties–as well as regular outerwear. The judge then excused the defendant so that she could change into her civilian clothes.
Some 15 minutes later, Zhang reappeared wearing “a gold-colored silk blouse and khaki slacks,” according to Herald reporters Jay Weaver and Nicholas Nehamas.
After that, Judge Altman said he was going to introduce Zhang to prospective jurors. The defendant countered that she didn’t want to be introduced to any jurors–because she believed her trial was cancelled.
This declaration prompted an upbraiding from the judge who has repeatedly cautioned Zhang as of late that she should not attempt to represent herself in court.
Despite Militello’s intervention in the earlier clothing dispute, Zhang actually fired her public defender last week.
“You are obviously unprepared to proceed,” Altman said. He then “strongly recommended” the accused utilize the services of the federal public defender’s office–and asked Zhang if she might not take Militello back as her attorney. “I don’t think so,” she said.
The jury candidates were then brought into the courtroom and Zhang eventually relented a bit–allowing Militello to allow her to screen potential jurors.
[image via screengrab/WSVN]