Man convicted of faking bite by deadly black mamba

Published On: Feb 14 2013 11:49:22 AM EST
Updated On: Feb 14 2013 02:32:48 PM EST
Black mamba

Photo by Tim Vickers

BRUNSWICK, Ga. -

A man who federal prosecutors say was seeking to become famous as someone who survived a deadly bite from a black mamba but made up the story was convicted Thursday after a three-day trial.

John K. Rosenbaum Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., was convicted of sparking a desperate search for the snake in south Georgia after telling authorities he was bitten in November 2011 while meeting someone willing to sell him the snake at an exit of Interstate 95 in Camden County. He faces up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release. No sentencing date has been set.

The snake is among the world's deadliest, and his story touched off a massive search for the deadly snake native to Africa. Authorities said more than 500 man hours were spent looking for the non-existent black mamba and involved investigators with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Kingsland police and the Camden County Sheriff's Office.

Rosenbaum's trial was held in Brunswick on charges of making false statements to authorities.

His lawyer said he was delirious after being bitten by another snake -- a cobra -- and never intended to mislead anyone.

Rosenbaum was hospitalized after a bite from his pet Egyptian banded cobra, prosecutors said, but no black mamba was involved.

He showed up at a hospital in St. Marys with two puncture wounds from a snake bite. He had the words "black mamba" and the name of the antivenom to treat the bite written in black marker on his arm, U.S. Attorney Shane Mays said in opening statements of the trial.

Rosenbaum told hospital workers he was bitten in the parking lot of a Wendy's restaurant at Exit 3, when the reptile got away from an animal seller he was meeting, Mays said.

Antivenom was found at the Jacksonville Zoo and rushed to Rosenbaum.

Defense lawyer James Newton contends his client was suffering from an extremely poisonous snake bite when he described what happened and did not attempt to mislead authorities.

"Because he was under the effects of medicine, (the evidence) will show reasonable doubt exists the statements were knowingly and willfully made," Newton said.

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