LAS VEGAS – A British citizen pleaded not guilty Wednesday to U.S. federal charges alleging he tried to grab a police officer’s gun to shoot presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump at a Las Vegas campaign rally.
A judge set an Aug. 22 trial date for Michael Steven Sandford, 20, on charges of disrupting an official function and two firearm possession counts.
Sandford stood wearing a yellow jail jump suit with his federal public defence attorneys during his brief arraignment.
He responded, “Yes, I do,” when U.S. Magistrate Judge Cam Ferenbach asked whether he understood the nature of the charges against him. He could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
His attorneys, Brenda Weksler and Ryan Norwood, declined to comment outside court.
Sandford has been in custody since his arrest June 18 at the rally at the Treasure Island hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip.
Another magistrate judge acknowledged during Sandford’s first court appearance on June 20 that his mental health may be an issue. A federal public defender representing him at that time said Sandford previously attempted suicide and once ran away from a hospital in England, but that he was competent for court proceedings.
Friends and family members in England have said Sandford was treated in the past for obsessive compulsive disorder and anorexia, that he was intelligent, and that signs of his Asperger’s syndrome had become more obvious as he got older.
His father reported that he moved to New Jersey a year and a half ago.
U.S. federal agents say Sandford told them he drove from San Bernardino, California, to Las Vegas where he practiced shooting at a gun range the day before Trump’s appearance.
The Secret Service says Sandford grabbed at the Las Vegas police officer’s gun before he was handcuffed.
Trump, on stage, thanked the uniformed police officers walking Sandford in custody out of the 1,500-seat theatre.
Sandford also is accused of overstaying his U.S. entry visa by about nine months. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities said they’ve lodged a detainer against him to take action on the immigration violation if he’s released from jail.