Briton who sought to shoot Donald Trump pleads not guilty

Police lead Michael Steven Sandford away from Mr Donald Trump's campaign rally in Las Vegas on June 18.
Police lead Michael Steven Sandford away from Mr Donald Trump's campaign rally in Las Vegas on June 18.PHOTO: REUTERS

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - A British man pleaded not guilty on Wednesday (July 6) to charges linked to his arrest at a Donald Trump rally during which he tried to snatch a policeman's gun.

Michael Sandford, 20, entered his plea before a federal judge in Las Vegas, where he was arrested on June 18 at a campaign event for the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

His trial on two felony counts of being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm and one count of impeding and disrupting the orderly conduct of government business was set for Aug 22.

According to court documents, Sandford, who had overstayed his visa in the United States, told police that he had tried to snatch an officer's gun at the rally in order to shoot Mr Trump.

His parents have said he suffers from Asperger's syndrome and told British media this week that they feared he might commit suicide if kept in a US prison.

His mother Lynne said she wanted him deported back to Britain so he could get psychiatric help.

She told the BBC that her son had a history of mental illness and had previously tried to take his own life.

She said the family had been told he was being held in isolation "22 hours a day with no window to the outside world". She told the BBC: "Why would he live the next 30 years in these situations? So yes I think he would attempt to commit suicide again."

Sandford faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to US$250,000 (S$337,000) on each of the three charges against him.

Although an initial complaint filed after his arrest stated that he told a Secret Service agent that he had intended to kill Mr Trump, he was not charged with plotting to assassinate the billionaire businessman.

He told the agent that he had driven from California to Las Vegas to carry out his plan and had gone to a gun range the day before to practise shooting, as he had never handled a gun before.