Published November 20, 2015
A Texas judge ordered Friday that a JetBlue Airways pilot who disrupted a cross-country flight by leaving the cockpit and yelling about religion and terrorists should be freed rather than committed to a mental health facility.
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, and he will not be allowed to communicate with any of the passengers on the March 27 flight he disrupted, according to Robinson's order.
"This is a bad situation for you and your family, but you are fortunate to have the type of immediate support that you have," Robinson said.
Osbon's attorney, Dean Roper, said afterward that he didn't know if Osbon would fly again, but was relieved to have a months-long legal proceeding come to an end.
"It's been a long ordeal for everyone involved, especially Mr. Osbon."
Passengers said Osbon left the cockpit during the March flight from New York to Las Vegas. He ran through the plane's cabin yelling about Jesus and al-Qaida. The flight was diverted and safely landed in Amarillo, Texas.
After the trial, Osbon, 49, 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. She did not say what the nature of the episode was, if it was connected to his previous disorder or what prompted it.
Neuropsychologist Robert E.H. Johnson had testified at the earlier trial that Osbon's psychotic disorder at the time of flight lasted for about a week afterward, according to a hearing transcript. He didn't say how long Osbon had gone without sleeping before boarding the plane, and his psychiatric evaluation of Osbon has been sealed, but he determined that Osbon suffered from 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.