22-Year-Old’s Prank Call Lands Him In Prison

December 1st, 2010 by Staff

SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. — A 22-year-old kid is now looking at four years in federal prison because he prank-called a space shuttle launch.
“It’s no joking matter to threaten the United States space shuttle launch,” Shuttle Launch Director Mike Leinbach said in court Tuesday during the sentencing hearing.
Nicholas Barbati pleaded guilty to all charges and his punishment was double what federal prosecutors had asked for. The judge wanted to show this isn’t a joke.
Two years ago, Barbati apparently thought prank calling the Coast Guard was funny. He left federal court Tuesday with a clear understanding hoax threats are no joke.
High-ranking NASA and Coast Guard officials left federal court Tuesday after testifying against Barbati. He plead guilty to calling the Coast Guard, on a secure line, claiming to be a lieutenant commander and stating he could see a threat to space shuttle Endeavour two miles offshore.
That was November 14, 2008. Endeavour was sitting on Launch Pad 39A. Seven astronauts were strapped in their seats. Endeavour was exactly 45 minutes from blast off.
“To call in a threat against a shuttle is ridiculous. We are a civilian agency doing great things for our country, our world, and to threaten the astronauts and the program is childish,” Leinbach said.
It took the Coast Guard and a half-dozen other agencies 40 minutes to meticulously tear the threat apart and determine it was a hoax.
“We were all heightened that day. I remember well when we got the final call,” Leinbach said.
With five minutes left on the countdown clock, Leinbach made the call to send Endeavour into orbit. The U.S. Attorney’s Office eventually tracked down Barbati through Skype records.
“Most people use Skype to be seen while chatting on the Internet, but Barbati turned the video option off and used the program to disguise his phone number in hopes no one would track him down,”
Investigators found Barbati had also Skyped calls to local law enforcers threatening to kill a baby, recreate the Virginia Tech massacre, and purposely tie up emergency phone lines.
Barbati told the judge he never imagined himself in a jail jumpsuit and he’s trying to change as a person. His attorney said he was abused as a child and abandoned by both parents.

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