A North Dakota man has pleaded guilty to plotting to assassinate President Donald Trump, in part, by using a forklift to flip the presidential limousine while Trump was inside, federal court documents show.
Gregory Lee Leingang, 42, of Bismarck, pleaded guilty last month to a federal charge of attempting to enter or remain in a restricted building and on grounds while using a dangerous weapon, according to the documents. In exchange for the plea, a second charge -- attempt to damage government property, i.e. the presidential limo -- has been dropped.
Leingang admitted in the court filings that on Sept. 6, 2017, he attempted to remain in a restricted area, the Andeavor Mandan Refinery in Mandan, after it had been cordoned off for a visit by Trump.
“During and in relation to the offense, (he) did use a deadly and dangerous weapon, that is, a forklift,” the plea agreement said.
See Leingang’s plea agreement below.
U.S. Assistant State's Attorney Brandi Sasse Russell told the Bismarck Tribune that Leingang was aware Trump was coming to give a speech at the refinery. He stole a forklift in Mandan and used it to enter the motorcade route, the prosecutor said.
"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," Sasse Russell told the newspaper.
The forklift got stuck in a gated area, however, and Leingang jumped out and fled, Sasse Russell said. He was soon caught by Mandan police officers.
Leingang later confessed his plan to detectives and a Secret Service agent, the Tribune reported.
Mandan Deputy Police Chief Lori Flaten told The Washington Post that, although reports said the forklift got stuck in a gated area of the refinery, Leingang actually never made it that far. Instead, he dumped the machine in a ditch and ran, with officers catching up to him soon after.
"We had that whole area blocked off because of the president's visit, so there was limited access," Flaten told the Post. "It wasn't until later, during interviews of him, that we found out that (killing the president) was his intention, not that he was stealing a forklift for transportation."
Leingang’s attorney told the court her client suffers from serious mental illness.
"He was suffering a serious psychiatric crisis during this incident," attorney Michelle Monteiro said, according to the Tribune.
Leingang told the judge during a Nov. 30 court hearing that he suffers from bipolar disorder and ADHD and has been on and off medications since he was a child. Monteiro told the court that Leingang is getting help in prison and is doing well, mentally.
Leingang is currently in the North Dakota State Penitentiary, serving time for two fires he set the morning of Trump's visit, at the Bismarck Municipal Ballpark's maintenance shop and at the state parole and probation office. According to the Tribune, he was sentenced to 10 years in state prison for the fires.
He also received five years in state prison for the theft of the forklift, as well as another five years in a separate burglary case. His estimated release date is in 2038, prison records show.
The Tribune reported that Sasse Russell is considering making Leingang's federal prison time concurrent, or to be served at the same time, as his sentence in the state cases.
His federal sentencing hearing is set for Feb. 15. According to his plea agreement, he faces 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years on supervised release once he completes his prison time.