ROCKLAND — A 31-year-old Rockland man will not serve any additional jail time for making a false distress call to the Coast Guard, which resulted in a large search effort.

Nathan Libby was sentenced Sept. 29 via a U.S. District Court online hearing by Judge Nancy Torresen, to time served for communicating a false distress call Dec. 3, 2020. Libby spent three days in the Cumberland County Jail in Portland following his arrest in late January 2021 and before he was released on bail.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Perry asked the judge to impose a six-month sentence.

Judge Torresen also ordered Libby to be on supervised release for three years and to pay $17,500 in restitution for the search efforts. Perry recommended that amount of restitution, but pointed out that was only a fraction of the true cost to the U.S. Coast Guard and Maine Marine Patrol.

Libby pled guilty June 3.

The judge cited Libby’s history of substance abuse, being sober for eight months, lack of any prior felony convictions and that he is the primary caretaker for his young son.

The defense mentioned Libby’s lengthy substance abuse disorder, having been addicted to opiates. The prosecutor said, however, there is no evidence the substance abuse led to the false distress call. Instead, Perry argued Libby was fired by a fishing boat captain and was trying to get back at that captain.

The prosecutor did not detail how the false call was getting back at the captain.

An affidavit filed in court by Coast Guard Investigative Service Special Agent Mark Root at the time of Libby’s arrest detailed the investigation that led to the charge against Libby.

The Coast Guard received a May Day call shortly after 6:30 a.m. Dec. 3, 2020, on VHF marine radio channel 16, The Coast Guard dispatcher spoke with a man for around one to two minutes, during the time where the unidentified man said the boat he was on lost its rudder and was taking on water fast, and the pumps could not keep up with the water.

The man said there were three people aboard the boat, and they were in Spruce Head Harbor and trying to get to the Atwood float.

Marine Patrol Officer Nicholas Stillwell responded to Atwood Lobster Co.’s wharf on Spruce Head Island in South Thomaston, and boarded a private vessel in an attempt to locate the boat that made the distress call. No vessel was located.

Stillwell returned to the dock and spoke to Libby, who was a dock worker at the neighboring Spruce Head Fisherman’s Co-op. Libby provided the Marine Patrol officer a list of boats that went out that morning.

The officer then spoke to someone else at the co-op and played the recording of the distress call. That person said the voice sounded like Libby. The officer went back and spoke to Libby, who said he heard the distress call. He also acknowledged the co-op office had a VHF radio, which was on channel 16.

The officer taped Libby and his voice was compared to the distress call by an associate research professor at the Language Technologies Institute School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Associate Professor Rita Singh concluded the voice on the distress call was the same as Libby’s voice, the affidavit stated.

Surveillance video showed Libby was at the co-op office the time the distress call was made. A check from a radio tower showed the call came from the direction of the co-op.

The Coast Guard sent out a vessel that searched for more than four hours, and a helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod spent more than five hours in the search; Maine Marine Patrol and private boats also helped in the search.

The distress call was also made less than two weeks after the Portland-based fishing boat Emmy Rose sank off the coast of Massachusetts, with four crew members aboard.