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Man returns to prison after snake hoax
A Jacksonville man who was convicted in February of lying about being bitten by one of the world's deadliest snakes was sent to federal prison Wednesday after he violated terms of his supervised release.

John K. Rosenbaum, 24, had been convicted Feb. 14 of telling federal investigators he was bitten Nov. 21, 2011, by a black mamba snake, when, in fact, he was bitten by an Egyptian banded cobra he had a permit to own in Florida. The lie prompted a widespread search by state and federal wildlife agents for a deadly snake they were led to believe was on the loose.

Rosenbaum, who had been in prison awaiting his trial and until he was sentenced in April to time served, was free for a little more than two months before starting his path back to prison on June 3. That is when he allegedly violated a restraining order his wife had against him when he argued with her at a Jacksonville gas station.

Probation officer Sally Watson testified Wednesday that Rosenbaum's aunt told her she had found a 14-inch knife under his pillow and believed he had gotten a gun - both violations of his supervised release.

Prosecutor Shane Mays of the U.S. Attorney's Office at Savannah told U.S. District Chief Judge Lisa Godbey Wood that Rosenbaum has a past of violence and erratic behavior, starting when he was 13 years old, and asked that he be given a longer sentence than the four to 10 months recommended for violating supervised release.

Wood sentenced Rosenbaum to 20 months in the D. Ray James Detention Center at Folkston, followed by one year of supervised release. She also urged the Bureau of Prisons to provide mental health treatment.

Before his conviction for lying to federal agents, he had told investigators he was bitten while trying to buy a black mamba in the parking lot of a Wendy's restaurant at exit 3 of Interstate 95 at Kingsland.

After the actual cobra bite, which occurred while Rosenbaum was cleaning the snake's cage, he searched the Internet for a hospital to seek treatment other than Shands Medical Center at Jacksonville, where he worked as a security guard.

Before driving himself to the Southeast Georgia Health System hospital at St. Marys, he wrote the words "black mamba" and the name of the anti-venom on his arm. The anti-venom for both snakes is the same.

At his trial in February, U.S. Attorney Brian Rafferty said Rosenbaum perpetuated the hoax because he liked the attention he received on Internet message boards and in national media for surviving a black mamba bite.

Wood sentenced him in April to time served for the year he spent in prison awaiting trial and to three years of supervised release, during which he was not to break any laws, was to have regular mental health evaluations and was to have no contact with weapons.

* Reporter Michael Hall writes about public safety, environment and other local topics. Contact him at, on Facebook or at 265-8320, ext. 320.

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