If you were following any campaign news at all this year (or simply own a television) you no doubt heard about the campaign rally in Las Vegas back in June where a British man attempted to assassinate Donald Trump. He was very quickly thwarted and nobody wound up being injured, but Michael Steven Sandford was taken into custody and began his journey through our legal system. That path has now come to an end and Sandford has been sentenced. What may come as a surprise is that he’ll be out of jail before the snow melts this spring. (Associated Press)
A British man diagnosed with mental illness was sentenced Tuesday to about four more months in a U.S. prison for trying to grab a police officer’s gun in a plan to kill presidential candidate Donald Trump at a campaign rally last June in Las Vegas.
Michael Steven Sandford, 20, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge James Mahan to one year and one day in prison with credit for time served and good behavior behind bars.
The sentence was about six months less than prosecutors sought, but the judge said Sandford will be deported when he’s released.
If I’d looked at nothing but the headline on this story it would likely enrage me. None of the details of the case should overshadow the fact that someone attempted to grab a gun and shoot the leading contender for his party’s presidential nomination and the man who is now, in fact, the President Elect of the nation. That’s one of the more serious charges you can level at anyone and seeing him getting a year and a day in jail just sounds… wrong. (Particularly when he’s given credit for time served and will be out in four months.)
At the same time, though, when I look at the circumstances of Sandford’s plot, I find it hard to get all that upset. While this in no way detracts from the serious nature of his crime, I’m forced to admit that in the history of assassination attempts, this was one of the more lame ones on record. Despite the lengthy travel he undertook and the “training” he received on firearms handling, he tried to grab a gun from a law enforcement officer while being so far away from Trump that a seasoned marksman would have found it challenging to take the shot. The guy failed spectacularly.
As to the media attention being lavished on Sandford’s history of “mental illness” in this matter… well, I’ll remain skeptical. I generally take a dim view of insanity defenses when the culprit is obviously at least somewhat in touch with the real world. Sandford was able to negotiate the requirements of foreign travel, locating his mark and signing up for firearms training. The circumstances of the attempt strike me far more as being spectacularly stupid than “insane.” And that dim look which constantly adorns his face doesn’t help his case much either.
So yes, it was a fairly light sentence for an attempted assassination, but when he gets out we’ll send him packing back to England and he can become their problem. He clearly seems to harbor evil intent, but from what we’ve learned of him so far, that doesn’t mean he’s necessarily all that dangerous by definition. Sandford appears to be far more of a fool than a super villain. But we should, at a minimum, make sure he’s on a list of people never allowed to travel to the United States again.