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JetBlue pilot will have more evaluation after psychotic episode

August 08, 2012|By Laura J. Nelson
  • JetBlue pilot Clayton Osbon, right, in April.
JetBlue pilot Clayton Osbon, right, in April. (Michael Schumacher / Amarillo…)

A JetBlue Airways pilot who sprinted through a plane cabin screaming about religion and terrorism had a psychotic episode in custody and would require further evaluation, according to court documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

On a March 27 flight from New York to Las Vegas, Clayton Osbon began ranting about religion, then ran through the cabin screaming about Al Qaeda and Jesus, according to an affidavit from FBI Special Agent John Whitworth. Passengers had to help restrain Osbon, and the flight was diverted to Amarillo, Texas.

After undergoing a psychiatric exam, Osbon was found competent to stand trial, facing charges of interference with a flight crew. He was found not guilty last month by reason of insanity and was committed to a federal mental health facility in North Carolina for evaluation.

He had been scheduled to return to court this week for a hearing to determine whether he would go free.

Before the hearing could take place, the federal facility sent U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson a letter detailing a psychotic episode and requesting an extended evaluation period. The court documents did not elaborate on what happened during the incident.

Robinson extended Osbon’s evaluation to Oct. 15. A final report from the facility will be due to her by the end of October.

The defense and prosecution agreed to Robinson’s decision, the judge wrote in the court order. A message left for Osbon’s attorney, Dean Roper, was not returned.

During the July trial, according to a hearing transcript cited by the Associated Press, neurospsychologist Robert Johnson testified that Osbon had a “brief psychotic disorder” at the time of the March 27 flight, induced by a lack of sleep.

The disorder continued for about a week after the flight, Johnson said.  He said the symptoms Osbon exhibited indicated he didn’t understand that his actions on the day of the flight were wrong.

The plane was more than halfway through the flight when Osbon began muttering incoherently in the cockpit about religion, the affidavit said. He asked the first officer to take the controls, then began turning off the radios, dimming the plane’s monitors and telling air traffic controllers to be quiet.

Osbon said, “We’re not going to Vegas,” then left the cabin, and the first officer locked him out, the affidavit said. Flight attendants warned passengers they might need help restraining Osbon, who sprinted through the plane, screaming about Jesus and Al Qaeda.

At least 10 passengers have sued JetBlue, saying they were scared for their lives and that the airline was “grossly negligent” for letting Osbon fly.

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Join Laura on Twitter. Email: laura.nelson@latimes.com

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