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Drunk on the Chesapeake Bay, he made a false distress call. Now he's going to prison.

By SCOTT DAUGHERTY | The Virginian-Pilot | Published: February 20, 2018

NORFOLK, Va. (Tribune News Service) — A Newport News man who made a false distress call from his boat in the Chesapeake Bay, then threatened a Coast Guard officer who came to rescue him, was sentenced Tuesday to more than four years in federal prison.

Justin P. Stahmer, 39, also was ordered to pay $56,704 in restitution. A jury convicted him last year in U.S. District Court in Norfolk.

According to court documents, the charges stemmed from a June 20, 2016, incident. Stahmer was on a boat several miles northeast of Cape Henry when he used the International Distress Frequency to report a “man overboard,” despite being alone on his boat and knowing no one had fallen in the water.

The Coast Guard launched a large-scale search, sending out a 45-foot patrol boat, an 87-foot cutter and a search-and-rescue helicopter. They also hailed Stahmer for more than 45 minutes, seeking more information to no avail.

When located, Stahmer initially denied making any distress call. Later, he said he called the Coast Guard because he had run out of gas.

When Coast Guard officers boarded Stahmer's vessel, he became belligerent and angry. They called the Virginia Marine Resource Commission Police, who arrested Stahmer for boating under the influence of alcohol.

While being transported back to shore, Stahmer kicked and threatened one of the boarding officers. He said he would “take him out” if he ever saw the officer again, according to court documents.

Assistant Federal Public Defender Keith Kimball said his client was intoxicated the night of the incident. He said Stahmer needed help with his addiction.

The jury that convicted Stahmer also acquitted him of a second count of making a false distress call.

Kimball said Stahmer also broadcast a "mayday" before he was located. He argued that was legal because his client was out of gas and in need of help.

©2018 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.)
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