Man Makes Plea Deal In Wild Assassination Scheme Targeting Trump

Photo by Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A man from North Dakota, reportedly intent on killing President Trump, planned to do it in a unique way in September 2017: use a forklift to get to Trump’s limo, flip it over, then murder the president.

Gregory Lee Leingang, 42, of Bismarck, “was charged in federal court with one count of attempting to enter or remain in a restricted building and on grounds while using a dangerous weapon, as well one count of attempting to damage government property,” as the Grand Forks Herald reported.

On Friday, Leingang reached a plea deal, pleading guilty to entering or remaining in a restricted building and on grounds while using a dangerous weapon. He told U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hovland on Friday that he had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and bipolar disorder, adding that he had taken medications intermittently for those disorders for thirty years.

According to U.S. Assistant State's Attorney Brandi Sasse Russell, Leingang knew of Trump’s speech at the Andeavor Mandan Refinery on September 6, 2017. That afternoon, Leingang had stolen a forklift in Mandan and joined Trump’s motorcade route. Sasse Russell stated, "The intent was to basically try to get to the limo, flip the limo and get to the president and he wanted to kill the president.”

But Leingang’s plans went awry; the forklift got stuck in a gated area, according to the Herald, triggering him to flee. He was later caught by Mandan police, to whom he revealed his scheme; an agent of the United States Secret Service also heard Leingang’s confession. Michelle Monteiro, Leingang's public defender, told the court, "He was suffering a serious psychiatric crisis during this incident.”

According to Mandan Deputy Police Chief Lori Flaten, the morning Leingang stole the forklift, he set two fires in Bismarck on the other side of the Missouri River and had stolen a truck from the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. As The Washington Post reported, “Leingang later abandoned the truck, then crossed the river over to Mandan and made his way to a sports complex under construction near the Mandan oil refinery.” Flaten told the Post that the sports complex was “where he got the forklift … He got around that day.” Flaten also countered reports that the forklift had gotten stuck in a gated area; she stated he never made it that far into the refinery, but that he left the forklift in a ditch and then fled on foot.

Flaten added, “We had that whole area blocked off because of the president’s visit, so there was limited access. It wasn’t until later, during interviews of him, that we found out that was his intention [to kill the president], not that he was stealing a forklift for transportation.”

Leingang was sentenced to 10 years in state prison for setting the fires and five years for stealing the forklift; he received another five-year-sentence for burglary in another case. He is scheduled to be released from prison in 2038. The prosecution agreed to recommend a sentence of time served concurrent to state sentences.

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