A 30-year-old YouTube creator and former Olympic athlete was sentenced Monday to six months in federal prison for staging a small plane crash for social media clicks.
Trevor Daniel Jacob admitted to intentionally crashing his plane, which was equipped with multiple cameras to capture its demise on video, in November 2021, federal prosecutors in California said in a news release.
He posted a video to YouTube titled “I Crashed My Airplane” on December 23, prosecutors said, to promote a sponsorship with a wallet company.
Some viewers were suspicious of the stunt, with a number of comments pointing out Jacob was already wearing a parachute, made no attempt to glide the aircraft to a safe landing area and took a camera and selfie stick with him when abandoning the plane.
Jacob lied to investigators, federal prosecutors in the Central District of California said, telling them he did not know the location of the wreckage. They say he also lied to a Federal Aviation Administration safety inspector.
According to prosecutors, Jacob was told days after the crash to preserve the site and inform the National Transportation Safety Board where it was.
Instead, he found the crash site and on December 10, 2021, used a helicopter to lift the wreckage out of the Los Padres National Forest. Then, bit by bit, he dismantled and disposed of the wreckage in an attempt to thwart the federal investigation, prosecutors said.
‘Daredevil’ conduct for social media clicks
Jacob pleaded guilty earlier this year to destruction and concealment with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation.
“It appears that (Jacob) exercised exceptionally poor judgment in committing this offense,” prosecutors argued in a sentencing memorandum. “(Jacob) most likely committed this offense to generate social media and news coverage for himself and to obtain financial gain. Nevertheless, this type of ‘daredevil’ conduct cannot be tolerated.”
Attorneys for Jacob requested he be sentenced to probation instead of prison time, writing in court documents the snowboarder was “living alone in his hanger” during the height of the coronavirus pandemic and made a “series of bad choices that culminated in the offense to which he has plead guilty.”
In a letter to the judge, Jacob wrote he was “sincerely sorry” and has “suffered a lot of consequences from this offense.”
“While I carefully researched the plane route to make sure the crash would not be near human housing or trail routes, I should have never gone forward with it,” Jacob wrote, adding the FAA has since reinstated his pilot license.
Prosecutors argued a prison sentence is “necessary to prevent others from attempting this type of stunt.”
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