United States v. Deffenbaugh, No. 11-4951
Decided: February 28, 2013
The Fourth Circuit affirmed Deffenbaugh’s conviction for conspiracy to cause a false distress call to be communicated to the U.S. Coast Guard, and causing a false distress call to be communicated to the U.S. Coast Guard, in violation of federal law. The Fourth Circuit also affirmed Deffenbaugh’s eighty-four month sentence.
Deffenbaugh designed a plan to fake his death with the assistance of his girlfriend in order to avoid a state probation violation hearing. Deffenbaugh went boating with his brother in Virginia, and when his brother wasn’t looking he jumped off the boat. Deffenbaugh swam to shore where his girlfriend was waiting for him, and they fled to Texas. The U.S. Coast Guard searched for Deffenbaugh for fifteen hours, which cost $220,940. Deffenbaugh was not declared dead and was subsequently arrested in Texas.
Deffenbaugh argued that there was no conspiracy to cause a false distress call to be made to the U.S. Coast Guard because his girlfriend did not have knowledge and intent that the recipient of the false distress call would be the U.S. Coast Guard. The Fourth Circuit rejects this argument, citing United States v. Yermian, 468 U.S. 63 (1984) in which the United States Supreme Court “held that the federal nature of a crime need not be in the mind of the perpetrator.” The Fourth Circuit also confirmed the reasonableness of Deffenbaugh’s eighty-four month sentence.