BRUNSWICK, Ga. - Federal prosecutors say a man on trial in Georgia was seeking to become famous as someone who survived a deadly bite from a black mamba - but they say the story was a hoax.
John K. Rosenbaum Jr. of Jacksonville, Fla., is accused of touching off a desperate search for the snake in south Georgia after telling authorities he was bitten in November 2011. The snake is among the world's deadliest.
Rosenbaum is on trial this week in Brunswick, near Georgia's coast, on charges of making false statements to authorities, The Brunswick News reported.
His lawyer says he was delirious after being bitten by another snake - a cobra - and never intended to mislead anyone.
Rosenbaum was hospitalized after a bite from his pet Egyptian banded cobra, prosecutors say, but no black mamba was involved.
He showed up at a hospital in St. Mary's with two puncture wounds from a snake bite. He had the words "black mamba" and the name of the antivenom to treat the bite written in black marker on his arm, U.S. Attorney Shane Mays said in opening statements of the trial.
Rosenbaum told hospital workers he was bitten in the parking lot of a Wendy's restaurant along Interstate 95 in south Georgia, when the reptile got away from an animal seller he was meeting, Mays said.
Antivenom was found at the Jacksonville Zoo and rushed to Rosenbaum. The ensuing search for the non-existent black mamba took up more than 500 man hours and involved investigators with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Kingsland police and the Camden County Sheriff's Office, authorities said.
Defense lawyer James Newton contends his client was suffering from an extremely poisonous snake bite when he described what happened and did not attempt to mislead authorities.
"Because he was under the effects of medicine, (the evidence) will show reasonable doubt exists the statements were knowingly and willfully made," Newton said.
The trial in U.S. District Court in Brunswick was expected to continue today.