A British man was sentenced Tuesday to one year and one day in prison for two felonies stemming from his attempt to grab a Las Vegas police officer’s gun at a Donald Trump campaign rally in June.
With credit for time served and good behavior, Michael Steven Sandford, 20, faces another four months in federal custody under the sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge James Mahan.
Sandford pleaded guilty to in June to one count of being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm and one count of impeding and disrupting the orderly conduct of government business and official functions. As part of a plea bargain, a second firearm charge was dropped.
After serving his prison time, Sandford will be subject to three years of supervised release, though his defense attorneys expect he’ll instead be deported.
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Sandford was arrested June 18 at Treasure Island at the Trump rally after he attempted to grab the police officer’s firearm in what he later told investigators was an attempt to shoot and kill Trump.
Sandford had approached the officer and asked about getting Trump’s autograph. As the officer responded, Sandford grabbed his gun with both hands and unsuccessfully attempted to remove it from the holster.
‘I JUST FEEL TERRIBLE’
No shots were fired and no one was injured in the incident.
“I feel so bad about what I did,” Sandford told the judge, his voice cracking with emotion. “I just feel terrible.”
Sandford’s mental health problems played a role in the sentence, which was less than the 1 1/2 years in prison that federal prosecutors had recommended.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Schiess argued in favor of a longer sentence, saying more time behind bars would help ensure Sandford is no longer a threat.
A sentencing memorandum filed by assistant federal public defender Brenda Weksler on Sandford’s behalf says he has a history of mental health problems that dates back to when he experienced hallucinations when he was 8 years old. At the time, he expressed suicidal thoughts and was hyperventilating from “hallucinations of aliens wanting to kill him,” the document says.
He also was diagnosed with autism and an obsessive compulsive disorder that led doctors to recommend that he live alone, records show.
Weksler told the court Sandford has a supportive family and understands the importance of being treated for his mental health problems.
MOTHER URGES LENIENCE
His mother, Lynne Sandford, said in court that he made a “huge error of judgment,” adding “it breaks my heart to see him in this environment.”
“He’s very remorseful for what he did,” she said.
She and other family members declined comment afterward. The mother told the Las Vegas Review-Journal they were under an exclusive contract with another media outlet and could not do other interviews Tuesday.
Mahan urged Sandford to continue getting treatment. Sandford also apologized for taking up so much of the court’s time.
“That’s why I get the big bucks,” the judge responded.
At the time of the incident, Sandford was in the U.S. illegally on a tourist visa that had expired Aug. 30, 2015. He originally visited the U.S. for about a month in January 2015 and returned later in 2015 when his grandmother rented an apartment for him in New Jersey. Sandford’s mother lost contact with him and reported him as a missing person in May 2016. They reconnected after she learned of his arrest.
During questioning, Sandford told police that he believed Trump was a “racist” and “needs to die,” according to a Secret Service report.
When a Secret Service agent questioned him about his intent in trying to grab the officer’s sidearm, Sandford responded: “To shoot and kill Trump,” it said.
Sandford had told law enforcement that he drove from California to kill Trump and was living out of his car while working odd jobs. The day before the Trump rally, Sandford went to a gun range in Las Vegas and took shooting lessons with a rented 9 mm Glock pistol.
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