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LONDON — The mother of a British man accused of trying to assassinate Donald Trump said Tuesday her son had “a lifetime of mental health problems” and was on suicide watch in a Nevada jail.
Michael Sandford, 20, has autism and Asperger’s syndrome and watches children’s cartoons, according to Lynne Sandford. She said her son would not have understood the consequences of his actions.
He is accused of attempting to grab a police officer's gun after asking for the Republican candidate’s autograph at a Las Vegas casino on June 18.
His trial is scheduled for August 22, where he will face charges of disrupting government business and being an illegal alien in possession of a gun. However, his U.K. lawyer argues he is unfit to enter a plea.
Lynne Sandford, 42, who lives in the London commuter town of Dorking, said she was raising money for a legal bid to repatriate him.
“I accept that Michael has tried to do a bad thing but he is mentally ill,” she told reporters. “Michael is an autistic man who would not have foreseen the consequences of his actions.”
She said he had OCD, anxiety and attempted suicide when he was 14 years old, leading to a temporary mental health order from authorities.
“Although he’s got a man’s body, he is still very much a child,” she said. “He loves to watch [British television cartoon] Peppa Pig. He’s not a normal 20-year-old. He is considerate, kind, loves animals ... but he has always had his issues and they have grown with him. It equates to a lifetime of mental health problems.”
Lynne Sandford said she feared her son would die inside a U.S. prison. “He is extremely vulnerable and would not survive,” she said. “We want to try to bring him home from the U.S. to a secure place that will help him.”
"It’s not clear that Michael understands what he’s done"
Michael Sandford had overstayed his visa by several months and was in the U.S. illegally at the time of the alleged incident. He had been reported missing by his mother and was living in his car.
After his arrest, Michael Sandford told investigators he tried to grab the gun "to shoot and kill Trump," a Secret Service agent wrote in an affidavit. He also said he believed he would be killed by police in the attempt.
The affidavit also includes testimony from the owner of a Nevada firearms range who says Sandford visited in the days before the incident and learned how to fire the same type of gun used by police.
His U.K. lawyer, Siamo Chahal, said she had been in touch with authorities in Nevada to seek his transfer from a regular jail to a medical facility.
“Michael has a number of psychological and psychiatric conditions, some possibly as yet undiagnosed,” she told reporters. “It’s not clear that Michael understands what he’s done. Our best aim is for Michael to be repatriated before he is sentenced.”
Lynne Sandford said her son was “extremely distressed” and kept breaking down on the phone.
“He was very remorseful, profusely apologetic for any problems that he’s caused," she added. "He is in a really bad way, very emotional, fragile, very vulnerable, frightened and very bewildered.”