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Case Number: 2:21-cr-00069-NT
Judge: Nancy Torresen
Court: United States District Court for the District of Maine (Cumberland County)
Plaintiff's Attorney: United States District Attorney’s Office
Description: Portland, Maine criminal defense lawyer represented defendant charged with making a hoax distress call.
On December 3, 2020, while at the Spruce Head Fisherman’s Co-op, Nathan Libby, 31, communicated a false distress call for a vessel and crew reportedly taking on water in the vicinity of Spruce Head. In response, the U.S. Coast Guard initiated a search lasting more than five hours, which included the use of a local Coast Guard vessel, a Maine Marine Patrol vessel, and a helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod. Further investigation identified Libby as the caller and the search was suspended as a hoax call.
The Coast Guard pursues all distress calls, and when dealing with hoax cases, crews will search until the nature and legitimacy of the calls are resolved.
“I applaud the collaborative efforts of the Department of Justice, Maine Marine Patrol, Rockland Police Department, and the United States Coast Guard in bringing this case to a close and ensuring accountability for Mr. Libby’s actions,” said Capt. Brian LeFebvre, Sector Commander of Coast Guard Sector Northern New England. “Hoax calls like the call Mr. Libby placed unnecessarily put our rescue crews at risk, waste resources, and may limit our ability to respond to actual emergencies.”
Libby faces up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, a $10,000 civil penalty and reimbursement for all costs incurred in responding to the false distress message. He will be sentenced after the completion of a presentence investigation report by the U.S. Probation Office. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, the Maine Marine Patrol and Coast Guard Sector Northern New England investigated the case.
False Distress call violation, 14 U.S.C. 521(c), which provides:
(c) An individual who knowingly and willfully communicates a false distress message to the Coast Guard or causes the Coast Guard to attempt to save lives and property when no help is needed is—
(1) guilty of a class D felony;
(2) subject to a civil penalty of not more than $10,000; and
(3) liable for all costs the Coast Guard incurs as a result of the individual's action.
(d) The Secretary shall establish a helicopter rescue swimming program for the purpose of training selected Coast Guard personnel in rescue swimming skills, which may include rescue diver training.
(e) An individual who knowingly and willfully operates a device with the intention of interfering with the broadcast or reception of a radio, microwave, or other signal (including a signal from a global positioning system) transmitted, retransmitted, or augmented by the Coast Guard for the purpose of maritime safety is—
(1) guilty of a class E felony; and
Outcome: The defendant waived his right to be physically present and agreed to proceed by video. Defendant advised of his rights and the charges against him and waived his right to prosecution by Indictment and consented to prosecution by Information. Video Waiver of Indictment and Arraignment Hearing held. Guilty Plea entered as to Count 1 of the Information; Plea accepted. Defendant continued on the previously furnished conditions of release. (Court Reporter: Tammy Martell) (slg) (Entered: 06/03/2021)