Mar-a-Lago resort in West Palm Beach. Photo: Shutterstock.com.
As the plot thickens in the government's case against Yujing Zhang, a 32-year-old Chinese woman arrested for lying to the Secret Service and trespassing on President Donald Trump's private West Palm Beach club Mar-a-Lago, here's a look at the lawyers fighting in her corner and those closing in on it.
At a detention hearing Monday, John C. McMillan and Rolando Garcia, assistant U.S. attorneys for the Southern District of Florida, presented evidence that Zhang was carrying two Chinese passports, four phones, a laptop and a thumb drive fitted with computer malware. They also claimed investigators found almost $8,000 in cash, along with various credit cards and computer gear in Zhang's hotel room, including a hidden-camera detector, igniting rumors of international espionage.
Zhang hasn't entered a plea yet, as prosecutors are expected to formally indict her this week. She has, however, denied being a spy, and although the FBI is still investigating that possibility, she has not been charged with espionage. Trump was closeby at the time of the incident, reportedly playing golf at the Trump International course.
McMillan, one of the attorneys presenting the government's case, specializes in firearms and drug cases. He prosecuted former Hialeah police officer Rafael Valdes and his wife, who collectively received more than eight years in prison for selling hundreds of guns on the internet without a licence. McMillan also prosecuted Vero Beach surgeon Johnny Benjamin Jr., dubbed Florida's "Breaking Bad" doctor and given life in prison for distributing fentanyl-laced pills.
Fellow prosecutor Garcia was admitted to the bar in 1988 and holds a degree from the South Texas College of Law. Garcia brought the case against Fort Pierce man Charlton LaChase, sentenced in January to 18 months in prison for professing support for the Islamic State via text message and threatening mass murder.
Garcia labeled Zhang a serious flight risk at Monday's hearing, and told U.S. Magistrate Judge William Matthewman "there are a lot of questions that remain" about the defendant, whose ties are allegedly all in China.
Meanwhile, assistant federal public defenders Robert E. Adler and Kristy Militello in West Palm Beach argued Zhang was at the resort for a legitimate reason. They showed the court a receipt allegedly demonstrating she'd paid a businessman $20,000 to go to a "United Nations friendship event" at Mar-a-Lago.
Adler has decades of experience. He was admitted to the bar in 1978 and holds a law degree from the University of Florida. He cast doubt on the Secret Services' methods, pointing out that Zhang got through two security checkpoints. CNN quoted him telling the court, "The only thing Ms. Zhang did was give a very common Chinese name. … And it was decided she be let in. I don't understand how this could support a trespassing charge."
Zhang claimed she'd been getting acquainted with the grounds ahead of the event, but Secret Service agent Samuel Ivanovich testified that event didn't exist. Ivanovich also told the judge that the malware on Zhang's thumb drive corrupted an analyst's computer once uploaded.
But Adler and Militello used Ivanovich's testimony to show Zhang was questioned for several hours before agents brought in a Mandarin translator.
Militello holds a law degree from the University of Miami and took her post in 2014 after more than six years as assistant public defender in Palm Beach County's serious felony trial division. She represented David Rodriguez, acquitted in 2012 of charges he barricaded his girlfriend inside their burning apartment. Miletto argued there wasn't enough evidence that Rodriguez lit the fire or attacked the victim as claimed.
Zhang will be held on pretrial detention until Monday, when her arraignment is scheduled and bond hearing will continue.
More criminal law stories:
No New Trial for Florida Woman Caught Hiring Fake Hit Man on 'Cops' Episode
South Florida Lawyer Joseph Klock Charged With Obstruction, Resisting Arrest