Sentencing for False Distress Message

Tuesday, March 09, 2004
John McKay, United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington, Rear Adm. Jeffrey M. Garrett, Commander, Thirteenth Coast Guard District, and Russell Barker, Special Agent in Charge of the Coast Guard Investigative Service, Northwest Region, announced that today, the Honorable Franklin D. Burgess, United States District Judge of the Western Washington District of Washington, sentenced JAMES GARRETT BALDWIN, age 31, of Aberdeen, Wash., in Federal District Court to twelve months and one day's imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release for one count of Communicating a False Distress Message to the United States Coast Guard. The court also ordered Baldwin to pay $194,587 in restitution to the U.S. Coast Guard. On July 10, 2003, Baldwin pleaded guilty to communicating a false distress message to the U.S. Coast Guard, as set forth in the indictment. On November 19, 2002, U.S. Coast Guard Group Astoria, Ore., responded to a radio distress call from a person claiming that he and his crew were abandoning a vessel taking on water at the entrance to John's River, Wash. The Coast Guard dispatched a HH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, a 47-foot motor lifeboat and a 23-foot utility boat, and searched the area in severe weather conditions for more than 15 hours, before concluding the distress call was false. As a result of responding to this distress call, the Coast Guard incurred costs of $194,587. The matter was investigated by agents of the Coast Guard Investigative Service, with assistance from the Washington State Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. Assistant U.S. Attorney John J. Lulejian and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Kennedy, Thirteenth Coast Guard District Legal Office, prosecuted this case.

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