WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. —Before County Judge Mark Eissey sentenced Jing Lu on Friday morning, she asked to have a moment to tell her story. This week, a six-person jury agreed the Chinese national was not guilty of trespassing at Mar-a-Lago in December, but that she did resist officers on Worth Avenue when they arrested her.
Lu said she grew up in China, where she was raised to appreciate life and be an “upright” and “law-abiding” citizen. Like millions of other Chinese, the 56-year-old said she was enjoying her retirement by traveling.
“The world is so big. I want to explore,” she said through the help of a Mandarin interpreter. “And I was very lucky to come to the U.S.”
She spent time on both coasts, exploring everything from national parks to major cities and had come to Palm Beach to see the luxury of the mansions and buildings.
Taking a moment to pause and compose herself, she said she never thought she’d be arrested.
“Unfortunately, I made an honest mistake, so my life is not perfect anymore,” she said.
Jing Lu, who also goes by Lu Jing, was sentenced to six months in jail by Eissey. She was given credit for the 59 days she’s already spent in the Palm Beach County Jail.
After a daylong trial Tuesday, the six-person jury came back Wednesday morning and found Lu not guilty of trespassing after investigators say she was caught taking photos at Mar-a-Lago on Dec. 18.
Though the jurors acquitted her of the charges that made national headlines, the jury found her guilty of resisting arrest when officers later stopped her on Worth Avenue.
Because of the conviction, Lu had faced up to a year in jail.
Eissey said he’d also sign an order indefinitely forbidding her from being near Mar-a-Lago, as prosecutors requested.
Eissey —who at first questioned whether he had the legal authority to grant the request because Lu had been acquitted of the trespassing charges —said he wanted to make it clear to Lu that she cannot go back there. He asked prosecutors if they knew if there were any “no trespassing” signs at Mar-a-Lago. They were unsure.
“I sure do wish they would have something on there,” he said of the island resort.
On Friday, Assistant State Attorney Alexandra Dorman asked the judge to give Lu the maximum sentence. Even though she was acquitted of the trespassing charges, Dorman said they needed to send a message that what she did was not proper and she wasn’t the first to do it, either.
“There’s great concern for this type of (incident) happening on Mar-a-Lago property,” Dorman said.
Last year, Yujing Zhang entered Mar-a-Lago with four cellphones, a computer, two Chinese passports, an external hard drive and a thumb drive.
The 33-year-old from China was convicted of lying to officials to access the property while the president was in town.
On Jan. 6, Eric Kvasnica, 34, from Indiana, tried to gain access to Mar-a-Lago a day after Trump left the property.
On Thursday, Allen Davant Johns Cox, 38, was arrested on charges of violating a previous trespass warning after Palm Beach Police saw him hiding in the bushes that border the estate.
Assistant Public Defender Schnelle Tonge asked the judge to sentence Lu to the time she already spent in jail awaiting an outcome in the case. With no criminal history and with little chance for her to remain in the country because of a federal immigration hold, she said there was no reason to keep her any longer.
Also, Tonge said prosecutors continued to argue for sentencing surrounding the charge which her client was acquitted of, trespassing, and not the one that led to her conviction, resisting arrest.
Lu said she had no family in the U.S. and that even when she was jailed, she found people were pleasant and caring with her. She said she “begged” the judge to be lenient with her sentence.
“This will stay with me for the rest of my life,” she said through the Mandarin interpreter.
During the trial, which began Tuesday, prosecutors argued Lu knew she was not supposed to be on the private club’s property.
Assistant State Attorney Joseph Kadis told the jury during his opening statements that even with a language barrier, there was no question whether Lu understood she shouldn’t be at Mar-a-Lago.
“You know how she understands? She turns around and leaves,” he told the jury, referencing security-camera footage from Mar-a-Lago that was shown to jurors.
Trump was not at the Palm Beach resort and club at the time Lu was there. He arrived two days later to stay at the island home for the holidays. A security guard said he waved Lu off the property twice once he realized she didn’t speak English.
Lu’s attorneys said she was just a tourist who was dropped off at the residence and walked through the open gate with a fanny pack around her waist and a cellphone in hand.
Lu, who testified through the help of a Mandarin interpreter Tuesday, said she was picked up by a private tour guide once she left Mar-a-Lago and was dropped off on Worth Avenue.
There, she was stopped by Palm Beach police. She said she didn’t understand what the officer was saying to her, she thought that he wanted her to delete the photos she showed him, so she complied. Then, she said, the officer pulled out his handcuffs.
“I said, ‘No! What are you doing? I just took a couple pictures!’” she said.