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Judge Rules JetBlue Pilot Who Suffered Apparent Meltdown Can Stand Trial

Clayton F. Osbon, 49, Faces Up To 20 Years In Prison If Convicted
Clayton Osbon (credit: Handout)

Clayton Osbon (credit: Handout)

AMARILLO, Texas (CBSNewYork/AP) — A JetBlue Airways pilot who left the cockpit and ran through the cabin, screaming about religion and terrorists, is mentally competent to stand trial, a federal judge ruled Friday.

Clayton F. Osbon, 49, has been charged with interfering with a flight crew, which is defined as assaulting or intimidating the crew, interfering with its duties or diminishing its ability to operate the plane.

He recently underwent a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation at a medical facility to see if he could assist properly in his defense and to determine if he was sane at the time of the alleged offense. U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson ordered the eight-page evaluation sealed Friday after finding Osborn competent.

She did not set a trial date.

Robinson read from an agreement between Osbon’s attorney, Dean Roper, and U.S. Assistant Attorney Denise Williams, stating that Osbon “is not now suffering from a mental disease or defect which would interfere with his ability to meet the legal criteria of competency to stand trial.”

Osbon, who appeared thinner than at his first court appearance in early April, responded, “Yes, your Honor,” when Robinson asked him if he agreed with that assessment.

Roper and Williams both declined to comment after the hearing.

Roper previously filed a motion notifying the court that he plans to use an insanity defense at trial.

Osbon, whose feet were shackled during the hearing, remains in custody. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Osbon, of Richmond Hills, Ga., has been with JetBlue since 2000. He was charged in relation to a March 27 flight from New York to Las Vegas, during which passengers and crew said he ran through the plane’s cabin yelling about Jesus and al-Qaeda. The first officer locked him out of the cockpit and passengers wrestled him to the floor before the plane made an emergency landing in Amarillo.

Shortly after leaving New York on the five-hour flight, Osbon started rambling about religion to the first officer, according to court documents. He scolded air traffic controllers to quiet down, then turned off the radios altogether and dimmed the monitors in the cockpit. He said aloud that “things just don’t matter” and encouraged his co-pilot that they take a leap of faith.

“We’re not going to Vegas,” Osbon said, according to the affidavit.

Osbon was suspended after the incident. JetBlue Airways spokeswoman Sharon Jones said Thursday that Osbon remains an employee and his status is inactive.

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