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JetBlue pilot restrained by passengers is competent for trial

June 15, 2012|By Laura J. Nelson
  • JetBlue pilot Clayton Frederick Osbon, right, is escorted by FBI agents as he is released from The Pavilion at Northwest Texas Hospital in Amarillo, Texas.
JetBlue pilot Clayton Frederick Osbon, right, is escorted by FBI agents… (Michael Schumacher / Associated…)

A JetBlue Airways pilot who left the cockpit in the middle of a flight and sprinted down the aisle screaming about terrorists and Jesus is mentally fit to stand trial, a U.S. District judge ruled Friday.  

Clayton F. Osbon, 49, had recently undergone a court-ordered psychiatric exam; court documents indicate his lawyer had planned an insanity defense to defend his client against federal charges of interfering with a flight crew.

Three hours into a March 27 flight from New York to Las Vegas, Osbon began muttering incoherently in the cockpit about religion, according to a court affidavit. 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.

The first officer grew more concerned when Osbon said, "Things just don't matter" and "we're not going to Vegas," according to the affidavit.

When Osbon left the cockpit, 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, Sept. 11, Iraq, Iran and terrorists" and referred to "150 souls on board."

When the first officer gave the approval over the speaker system, passengers tackled Osbon in the galley, according to the affidavit. The plane made an emergency landing in Amarillo, Texas.

The ruling on Osbon’s mental fitness came two days after 10 of the passengers on the Las Vegas flight sued JetBlue. Passengers were scared for their lives during Osbon’s antics, the suit alleges, and the airline was “grossly negligent” for letting him fly.

If convicted, Osbon faces up to 20 years in prison.

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Follow Laura on Twitter or Google+. Email: laura.nelson@latimes.com

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