AMARILLO, Texas (CN) – The JetBlue pilot who forced an emergency landing by ranting about terrorists and Jesus was found not guilty of interfering with a flight crew by reason of insanity.
U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson on Tuesday found beyond a reasonable doubt that Clayton Frederick Osbon, 49, interferedwith a flight crew, forcing JetBlue Flight 191 from John F. Kennedy Airport to Las Vegas to be diverted to Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport on March 27.
She ordered Osbon to be held at a low-security federal prison in Fort Worth pending further examination.
“The court finds, based on the psychological evaluation and testimony of Dr. Robert Johnson, that the defendant suffered from a severe mental disease or defect that impaired his ability to appreciate the nature, quality, or wrongfulness of his behavior at the time of his offense,” Robinson wrote in her verdict.
Osbon faced up to 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. He had waived his right to a jury trial.
The flight’s first officer and flight attendants said Osbon arrived at JFK later than he should have that day and missed the crew briefing, according to the indictment and an FBI agent’s affidavit.
“As the plane was leaving JFK and climbing in altitude in its scheduled five-hour flight, Osbon said something to the first officer about being evaluated by someone, but the FO [first officer] did not know what he meant,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a statement. “Osbon then talked about his church and the need to ‘focus’ and asked the FO to take the controls and work the radios. Osbon began talking about religion, but, according to the FO, his statements were not coherent.”
The FBI agent said in his affidavit: “The FO became concerned when Osbon said, ‘things just don’t matter.’ Osbon yelled over the radio to air traffic control and instructed them to be quiet. Osbon turned off the radios in the aircraft and started dimming his monitors. Osbon sternly admonished the FO for trying to talk on the radio. The FO became really worried when Osbon said, ‘we need to take a leap of faith.’ Osbon started trying to correlate completely unrelated numbers like different radio frequencies, and he talked about sins in Las Vegas. At one point, Osbon told the FO ‘we’re not going to Vegas’. Osbon began giving what the FO described as a sermon.”
The first officer, “concerned with Osbon’s behavior,” suggested they invite an off-duty JetBlue captain into the cockpit, the FBI agent said in the affidavit. But Osbon abruptly left the cockpit, without following security protocol, which “alarmed the rest of the crew,” the FBI agent said.
“When the flight attendants met with him at the front gallery to find out if anything was wrong, Osbon aggressively grabbed a flight attendant’s hands,” according to the affidavit. “Osbon banged on the lavatory door and told a female passenger who was inside that he needed to go to the bathroom.”
While Osbon was in the the lavatory, a flight attendant brought the off-duty captain to the cockpit, where he stayed for the rest of the flight, the FBI agent said. When Osbon left the lavatory, he talked with flight attendants about “150 souls on board.”
Osbon walked to the rear of the aircraft, stopped and asked a male passenger if he had a problem, then sprinted back to the forward galley and tried to enter his code to re-enter the cockpit. When the first officer asked over the intercom that Osbon be restrained, “he banged on the door hard enough that the FO thought he was coming through the door,” the FBI agent said.
The affidavit continues: “The FO and non-rev captain locked the cockpit foor from the inside. The FO announced over the PA system an order to restrain Osbon. The flight attendants were already trying to stop Osbon from entering his code. Several passengers jumped in to help and brought Osbon down in the forward galley. One female flight attendant suffered bruised ribs during the struggle. According to one of the passengers who assisted, Osbon said ‘pray fucking now for Jesus Christ’. Osbon also yelled jumbled comments about Jesus, September 11th, Iraq, Iran, and terrorists. He also yelled, ‘Guys, push it to full throttle.'”
The first officer declared an emergency and diverted the jet to Amarillo. “The aircraft landed with passengers still restraining Osbon in the galley,” the FBI agent said.