Local News

2/15/2013

Man found guilty of lying about black mamba snake bite case

By MICHAEL HALL The Brunswick News

A federal jury needed one hour and five minutes Thursday in U.S. District Court in Brunswick to convict a Jacksonville man of lying to federal officers about being bitten by a black mamba snake in 2011.

John K. Rosenbaum Jr., 24, was convicted for telling both state and federal investigators he was bitten on Nov. 21, 2011, by a black mamba, one of the world's deadliest snakes, when in fact he was bitten by an Egyptian banded cobra he was permitted to own in Florida.

Rosenbaum told investigators he was bitten while trying to buy the mamba in the parking lot of the Wendy's restaurant at exit 3 of Interstate 95 in Kingsland. His fictional story was detailed enough to include the name of a Statesboro man from whom Rosenbaum was purportedly attempting to purchase the snake, prosecutors said.

"It was an intentionally fabricated story. A lie," said U.S. Attorney Shane Mays during closing arguments Thursday. "He even staged his wife's car with snake handling equipment."

After the actual cobra bite, which occurred around 2 a.m. Nov. 21 while Rosenbaum was cleaning the snake's cage, Rosenbaum searched the Internet for a hospital to seek treatment other than Shands Medical Center, where he worked as a security guard. Before driving himself to Southeast Georgia Health System in St. Marys in his wife's car, Rosenbaum wrote the words black mamba and the name of the anti venom on his arm.

Prosecutors said Rosenbaum hoped to keep from his wife and employer the fact that he was bitten by his own snake when he lied to doctors and nurses about a mamba at the St. Marys hospital. He continued the lie when he told the same story the next day to investigators with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Service, Georgia Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

According to lead U.S. Attorney Brian Rafferty, Rosenbaum perpetuated the hoax because he liked the attention he was getting on Internet message boards and national media like The Today Show for surviving a black mamba bite.

"This case stands for the principal of the truth," Rafferty said. "Aren't you sick and tired people lying and not taking responsibility for what they did?"

Court-appointed defense attorney James Newton of Brunswick said in his closing arguments that the case was only about statements Rosenbaum made during interviews in his hospital room shortly after he came out of an 18-hour induced coma, not any other statements made before or after the bite.

"You must ignore all of the other false statements that were made, before or after," Newton said.

Ultimately, the jury found him guilty of one count of making false statements to federal officers.

Rosenbaum has been in D. Ray James Detention Center in Folkston since he was indicted in May 2012.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Lisa Godbey Wood, Southern District of Georgia, denied bond for Rosenbaum and will sentence him at a later date.

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