Published July 03, 2012
The JetBlue pilot who forced a Las Vegas-bound flight to make an emergency landing following a mid-flight meltdown in March was found guilty by a Texas judge on Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson in Amarillo issued the ruling during a bench trial for Clayton F. Osbon, noting he suffered from a "severe mental disease or defect." Osbon's attorney, Dean Roper, declined to comment.
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.
Obson will go back to a federal mental health facility in Fort Worth for further examination, and is expected to be brought back to Amarillo for another hearing in August. The judge will decide then whether Osbon can be released or committed to a mental facility.
Robinson ruled earlier this month that Osbon is mentally competent to stand trial. Her ruling followed a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation.
Osbon was indicted after a March 27 incident on flight from Las Vegas to New York. Passengers say they had to wrestle him to the floor after he left the cockpit mid-flight and ran through the plane's cabin yelling about Jesus and Al Qaeda.
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.
Next month's hearing puts the burden on Osbon to show "by clear and convincing evidence" that his release would not pose future danger, according to the court records.
JetBlue spokeswoman Alison Croyle said Tuesday that the airline "continues to support the Osbon family; we don't have further comment as we let the judicial process play out."
"We can confirm he is still employed, on inactive status, with JetBlue," she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.