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British man pleads not guilty in Donald Trump shooting plot case

Published 07/07/2016

A British man has pleaded not guilty to attempting to grab a police officer's gun in a bid to kill Donald Trump.

Michael Sandford, 20, allegedly tried to snatch the weapon during a rally at Treasure Island casino in Las Vegas on June 18.

He is said to have told police he travelled to the Nevada city to kill Mr Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for the US presidential election, according to court documents.

Sandford, of Dorking, Surrey, appeared at a federal court in Las Vegas wearing leg irons and a yellow prison uniform with the word "detainee" on the back.

He pleaded not guilty to a charge of disrupting government business and official functions and two charges of being an illegal alien in possession of a gun.

After the charges were read to Sandford, magistrate judge Cam Ferenbach asked him: "Do you understand the nature of the charges against you?"

Sandford replied: "Yes I do."

The judge said: "How do you plead?"

Sandford replied: "Not guilty".

He was remanded in custody and is due to stand trial on August 22.

According to a complaint lodged with the US district court in Nevada, Sandford told a policeman at the rally that he wanted Mr Trump's autograph before he attempted to seize the officer's gun.

During a police interview, when asked why he attempted to grab the weapon, Sandford replied: "To shoot and kill Donald Trump," the complaint alleges.

He had driven to Las Vegas from Californa on June 16, and went to a shooting range the next day, where he said he learnt how to use a gun for the first time, it is claimed.

Sandford - who had been living in the US for around 18 months - allegedly told investigators he expected to die in the attempt on June 18, which he had been planning for a year.

He also claimed to have booked tickets for another Trump rally in Phoenix, Arizona, in case he was unable to attempt to take the billionaire's life in Las Vegas, according to the complaint.

Sandford's mother has voiced fears that her son, who faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted, may try to take his own life in a US jail and called for him to be returned to the UK.

Lynne Sandford told the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme: "I would like him to be deported so he can be back in the country and can get psychiatric help and that way he could see the family that still adore him,"

"Jail is no place for him. He needs help, but not prison."

Mrs Sandford said her son had been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome when he was 13 and he had previously tried to kill himself. He had to be sectioned as a teenager after suffering from anorexia, she added.

The case will next be in court on August 11 for a hearing ahead of the trial.

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