British man gets prison time in Trump attack case in Vegas
LAS VEGAS (AP) — A British man diagnosed with mental illness was sentenced Tuesday to about four more months in a U.S. prison for trying to grab a police officer’s gun in a plan to kill presidential candidate Donald Trump at a campaign rally last June in Las Vegas.
Michael Steven Sandford, 20, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge James Mahan to one year and one day in prison with credit for time served and good behavior behind bars.
The sentence was about six months less than prosecutors sought, but the judge said Sandford will be deported when he’s released.
Mahan blamed the June 18 attempt in a crowded Las Vegas strip casino ballroom on Sandford’s mental illness, calling Sandford’s effort a “goofy, crazy stunt” fueled by voices he thought he was hearing.
Sandford choked back tears as he stood wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, flanked by his lawyers while photos of his family were projected onto a large screen. Sandford’s mother, father, grandmother and 4-year-old sister were in the courtroom.
“I know saying sorry is not enough,” Sandford told the judge. “I don’t want to hurt anyone. I wish I could make this better, I do.”
“You’re not alone,” Mahan replied. “There are people out there who care about you.”
Sandford’s mother, Lynne Sandford of Dorking, England, told Mahan her son “made a very, very bad mistake.”
“He needs to come home and get better,” she said.
When Michael Sandford pleaded guilty in September to being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm and disrupting an official function, he told the judge he was being treated with the anti-psychotic medication risperidone.
His mother’s lawyer in London, Saimo Chahal, has previously said Sandford suffers seizures, obsession-compulsion, anxiety and autism spectrum disorders, and that a psychiatrist determined that he was delusional at the time of the attempted attack.
“It’s important you stay on your medication,” Mahan told Sandford. “Your family’s waiting for you. You want to get back to England.”
Sandford has already served six months in jail since his arrest, and has about two months off for good behavior behind bars, prosecutor Daniel Schiess said. That means he could go free by mid-April.
Sandford could have faced up to 20 years in prison if convicted of both charges at a trial, and up to 30 years on the three charges he initially faced. One charge of being an illegal alien knowingly in possession of a firearm was dropped.
One of Sandford’s lawyers, Ryan Norwood, said his client was happy with the sentence and wants to return to Britain as soon as possible.
The light is at the end of the tunnel here,” Norwood said. “He’s happy about that part of it.”
Court documents said Sandford acknowledged telling a Las Vegas police officer that he wanted a Trump autograph and then used both hands to try to grab the officer’s gun.
Sandford told a federal agent he arrived in Las Vegas two days before the campaign rally, rented a 9mm pistol and practiced shooting a gun for the first time in his life at a gun range.
Schiess told the judge that Sandford planned for more than a year to attack Trump, and considered using a rifle and a knife before deciding on a handgun.
It was not clear if Trump recognized a threat before officers escorted Sandford out of the 1,500-seat theater at the Treasure Island hotel-casino. But he noticed the commotion and thanked police as Sandford was ushered away.