By Eric M. Johnson
(Reuters) - A 20-year-old British tourist who prosecutors say caused a security scare at a Donald Trump campaign rally in Las Vegas by trying to wrestle a gun from a police officer was sentenced on Tuesday to a year and a day in prison.
Michael Sandford, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge James Mahan in Las Vegas after pleading guilty in September under a plea agreement with prosecutors to one count each of illegal weapon possession by an alien and disrupting the orderly conduct of government business or functions.
A lawyer for Sandford, federal public defender Brenda Weksler, said she was "happy with the result," calling the sentence a "fair disposition of the case given the unique circumstances."
When asked whether Sandford intended to harm Trump, Weksler said: "Our client is not political at all."
Sandford admitted as part of the plea deal that he had approached a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department officer at the event in June, saying he wanted an autograph from the presidential candidate, then tried to pull the officer's gun from his holster with both hands.
Sandford, who had by then overstayed his tourist visa by about 10 months, was immediately arrested and removed from the rally, the Justice Department said.
He also acknowledged having visited a Las Vegas gun range the day before the campaign incident at the Treasure Island casino-hotel, to take shooting lessons with a rented Glock handgun, firing 20 rounds at a paper target, the Justice Department said.
In August, Sandford's mother, Lynne Sandford, told reporters in London that her son, who has been diagnosed in the past with autism, depression and other mental health conditions, had been on suicide watch in a Nevada prison for several weeks.
She portrayed her son as a compassionate, child-like man who enjoyed watching "Peppa Pig," a British television program for preschoolers, and who was bewildered and frightened by his incarceration.
No mention was made in the plea agreement about whether Sandford intended to harm Trump, then the presumptive Republican nominee in the U.S. presidential race.
Even so, the Justice department said in a statement announcing the prison sentence that "Sandford's conduct was disorderly and disruptive and required the U.S. Secret Service, other law enforcement, and security personnel to respond to the threat posed by Sandford, whose arrest also disrupted the speech given by Trump."
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Steve Orlofsky)