Keith Grimsey told the
Sunday World the last two years had been "f**king hell" as he was certain he was going to jail last week after pleading guilty to possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.
"It's a harmless antique gun," claimed Keith. "And the Army had raided my house two years before all this and taken it away and then give it back to me."
Despite admitting to police he did wave the decommissioned 'Desert Eagle' revolver, Keith says he didn't do it but still expected to go to jail for three years.
Instead he was sentenced to two years behind bars but the term was suspended for one year.
"It's been a nightmare, I've been through f**king hell for two years," says Keith. "I was told it was 'imminent' that I was going to jail. I wasn't shaving, I wasn't eating and I didn't sleep properly for the last six months.
"I rent this house and I'd cleared it of all the furniture because I thought I was going to prison. I had someone ready to cancel all my benefits and someone to pick up my car from Ballymoney train station.
"I can't tell you how relieved I am that I'm not. That was my 19th trip to Antrim Crown Court. I've been under so much stress I've had to seek help from the mental health team.
"I was in such a state of panic I don't even remember the judge telling me I wasn't going to jail. But when I left court I went straight to the pub for a glass of brandy and sat sipping it for two hours."
The 64-year-old, who admits he was involved in a paramilitary group when he was a teenager in his home town of Derry, claims he had been a "Good Samaritan" after driving his taxi out to nearby Portballintrae on Boxing night two years ago to collect a female friend of a friend who was stranded.
But he says things went pear-shaped when drink was taken and a row started.
The father of two from Church Street, Bushmills, says he's been made out to be some kind of "big-shot terrorist" and it looked as if he'd attacked the woman.
"I've been made to be some sort of monster who attacks women or some big shot terrorist like Johnny Adair the way the police treated me," he explained.
"It's a long story but basically the woman was a friend of a friend who was in my house. She asked if I'd drive out to pick her friend up because she was stuck in Portballintrae on Boxing night.
"I agreed to go but boy do I wish I hadn't - it was the biggest mistake of my life."
Despite his protestations, the police pulled no punches regarding the seriousness of his crime.
Speaking after he was sentenced at Antrim Crown Court, Detective Sergeant Moyne of the Criminal Investigation Branch said: "On Friday 27 December 2019, a 51-year-old woman was threatened by Grimsey inside a property in the Church Street area of Bushmills. At the time of the incident Grimsey was brandishing an imitation firearm.
"This was an extremely frightening experience for the victim, during which Grimsey used an imitation pistol to induce fear of a violent attack.
"The possession or use of firearms, imitation or otherwise, is unacceptable in any modern society."
But Keith claims, what made it more ridiculous in his eyes, was the fact it was the second time security forces had swooped on his home to seize the gun which he says he'd bought from an antique shop four years ago.
"Four years ago the Army got an anonymous tip-off that I had guns and ammunition in my house," says Keith.
"The Army ransacked my house, they dug my front and back garden. When they arrested me I got chest pains in the police station and they had to take me to the hospital. There were two marked and one unmarked police cars and eight cops who accompanied me to A&E with me handcuffed!
"I said to them 'it didn't take this many cops to catch the Border Fox' [Dessie O'Hare]."
Keith say police also took his car to Omagh and stripped it bare looking for more weapons and ammunition.
"After 16 months they gave me the gun back when they realised it was useless. They did me for having pepper spray which I only had because I was a taxi driver, and it wasn't even open.
"They also fined me £500 for having ammunition. I had spent bullets and some live rounds which my mum had left in a tin and I got when she died."
But his says his recent brush with the law has left him a broken man and brought back bad memories from his time in Derry during the Troubles.
"I grew up on the Waterside and I was in a loyalist paramilitary group when I was a teenager - but everyone was back then in 1972 - it was just for rioting, I never did anything else.
"I had to see a psychiatrist for a report for the court and they dredged up a lot of bad memories. I witnessed the aftermath of four bombings and got caught up in six gun battles.
"I had already been getting regular help from the Wave Trauma Centre before all this but now it's worse."