The US Department of Justice (DOJ) stated yesterday that a YouTuber who intentionally crashed a plane to “gain views and make money” has agreed to plead guilty to impeding a federal investigation. Californian pilot Trevor Jacob admitted in his plea deal to repeatedly lying to authorities and “deliberately destroying” the plane wreckage.
With the intention of obstructing a federal inquiry, the crimes of destruction and concealment attract a possible 20-year prison term and a fine of up to $250,000. However, because of the plea agreement, the Los Angeles district court can impose a lighter term.
According to the DOJ, Jacob will appear in court in the upcoming weeks. Ciaran McEvoy, a DOJ public relations officer, told Ars that Jacob has not yet entered a guilty plea. An initial court appearance, which is effectively a bond hearing, will be followed by a change of plea hearing. A federal court will set a sentencing hearing for a few months down the road if Jacob enters a guilty plea at that hearing. Jacob would then meet with the US Probation Office, which would then write a private pre-sentencing report suggesting the punishment it believes Jacob merits. A judge will eventually decide what punishment is given after Jacob and the prosecutors have the opportunity to agree or disagree with that sentencing report.
Jacob and his attorney could not be reached by Ars for comment right away. [Update: Jacob’s attorney Keri Curtis Axel told Ars, “Trevor is taking full responsibility for his mistake in judgment; he hopes to move past it and to use his status as a world-class action sports athlete, entrepreneur, and influencer to be a source for good in society.”]
Former snowboarder and Olympian Jacob developed his alleged plan to intentionally crash his plane on November 24, 2021, after accepting a sponsorship and agreed to advertise a company’s wallet in a video. Jacob is also an accomplished pilot and skydiver. The “I Crashed My Airplane” video, which is still accessible on YouTube, does not name the corporation and makes no mention of wallets.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), to whom Jacob reported the collision on November 26, 2021, reportedly told him that “he was responsible for preserving the wreckage so the agency could examine it,” according to the DOJ, is where Jacob’s troubles really began. Jacob promised to “determine the crash location” and send coordinates to an NTSB investigator.
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Three days later, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) opened its own investigation. The plea agreement states that during the ensuing weeks, Jacob began lying to federal investigators rather than helping with the inquiry.
First, he claimed he was unable to locate the accident site, but in fact, he revealed in the plea deal that he had used a friend’s helicopter to assist him in locating the debris. After that recovery, Jacob later confessed to taking the debris to the airport in Lompoc City, where he removed portions and threw them away, scattering the evidence among the garbage cans there and elsewhere. According to the plea deal, this “was done with the intent to obstruct federal authorities from investigating the November 24 plane crash.”
According to the plea bargain, the lying continued. Jacob acknowledged in the guilty agreement that he gave false information when asked by federal investigators how the disaster occurred, saying that the plane lost power and an engine stopped shortly after takeoff. He initially stated that he parachuted out of the plane “because he could not identify any safe landing options,” but the DOJ revealed that in the plea deal, he admitted staging the entire event with the intention of “making money through the video.”