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Pilot who disrupted flight is set free

POSTED: November 20, 2012 7:00 a.m.

AMARILLO, Texas — A JetBlue Airways pilot from Richmond Hill who disrupted a cross-country flight by leaving the cockpit and yelling about religion and terrorists is free to go home rather than be committed to a mental health facility, a Texas judge ruled Friday.

Clayton Osbon was charged with interference with a flight crew for the March incident, but was found not guilty by reason of insanity in July. A forensic neuropsychologist testified in a short, unpublicized trial that Osbon had a “brief psychotic disorder” brought on by lack of sleep.

U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson said Friday that Osbon would be allowed to go free, but set certain conditions for his release. He will not be allowed to fly or board any commercial or private planes without the permission of Robinson or his probation officer, and he will not be allowed to communicate with any passengers from the March 27 flight he disrupted, according to the judge’s order.

Passengers on the March 27 flight from New York to Las Vegas said the 49-year-old Osbon ran through the cabin yelling about Jesus and al-Qaida. Passengers moved to restrain him, and the flight was diverted and safely landed in Amarillo, Texas.

Osbon appeared in a green jail jumpsuit and did not make an extended statement in court.

Osbon left the federal courthouse without commenting to reporters and was expected head back to his home in Georgia later in the day. Osbon and a friend who attended the hearing planned to make the 1,300-mile trip by car, Roper said.

JetBlue spokeswoman Sharon Jones said Friday that Osbon still was employed and listed on “inactive duty.”

Neuropsychologist Robert E.H. Johnson testified in July that Osbon’s psychotic disorder at the time of flight lasted for about a week afterward, according to a hearing transcript. He determined Osbon suffered from a brief psychotic disorder and delusions “secondary to sleep deprivation.” Those symptoms made Osbon incapable of understanding why his actions on the flight were wrong, Johnson testified.

After the July trial, Osbon was sent to a prison medical facility in North Carolina for evaluation. Robinson was to decide what happened next for Osbon in August, but instead extended his evaluation period into October after being notified that Osbon had suffered a psychotic episode in prison.

 

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