Judge: JetBlue Pilot Is Competent To Stand Trial

by
Reuters
A federal judge ruled on Friday that the pilot of a JetBlue flight whose midair meltdown forced the flight to make an emergency landing in Amarillo, Texas, in March is competent to stand trial.

In this April 2, 2012, file photo JetBlue pilot Clayton Frederick Osbon, right, is escorted to a waiting vehicle by FBI agents as he is released from The Pavilion at Northwest Texas Hospital, in Amarillo, Texas. U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson ruled Friday, June 15, 2012, that the JetBlue Airways pilot who left the cockpit during a flight and screamed about religion and terrorists is mentally competent to stand trial.

A federal judge ruled on Friday that the pilot of a JetBlue flight whose midair meltdown forced the flight to make an emergency landing in Amarillo, Texas, in March is competent to stand trial.

The ruling was made by U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson in Amarillo after Clayton Osbon's attorney and prosecutors agreed that he is "not now suffering from a mental disease or defect" that would make it impossible for him to assist in his own defense, according to court documents.

"Osbon has a factual and rational understanding of the charges and proceedings against him, and is able to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him," Robinson said in her ruling.

Witnesses said Osbon, 49, had to be wrestled to the floor of a plane that was heading from New York to Las Vegas after he began sprinting down the aisle, yelling that "Things don't matter," and talking about Afghanistan, Iraq, and Al-Qaeda.

Before being locked out of the flight deck by the first officer, the FBI says Osbon had begun rambling, saying, "We're not going to Vegas," and warning the first officer that "We're going to have to take a leap of faith."

Osbon is charged with interference with a flight crew, a felony, and faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Friday's ruling comes after a government-appointed psychologist examined Osbon and determined that he is able to assist with his defense and "can communicate with his attorney in a rational and logical manner," according to court documents.

The psychologist's report did not address whether Osbon was sane at the time of the incident. His attorney has said he will use an insanity defense at the trial, which has not been scheduled.

Robinson on Friday ordered that the psychological examination of Osbon be sealed.

Today's ruling comes two days after Osbon and JetBlue were sued by 10 passengers from the flight. They say in the suit that Osbon's actions subjected them to fear of "imminent death and severe physical injury" and that JetBlue was negligent in supervising and retaining him as a pilot.

JetBlue has a policy against commenting on pending litigation, company spokeswoman Alison Croyle said on Wednesday.