JetBlue Pilot Osbon Found Competent to Stand Trial
Clayton Osbon, the JetBlue Airways Corp. (JBLU) pilot arrested in March after his erratic behavior led to the diversion of a flight, was found mentally fit to stand trial by mutual agreement of the prosecution and defense.
U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson in Amarillo, Texas, made the ruling at a hearing today, after ordering Osbon in April to undergo a mental examination at a federal medical facility. Osbon’s lawyer told the court in April that he will mount an insanity defense to charges that his client interfered with the duties of a flight crew.
The hearing today was to help determine whether Osbon is “suffering from a mental defect or deficiency rendering him mentally incompetent” to understand the legal proceedings “or assist properly in his own defense,” according to a court filing.
Osbon’s behavior while captaining a March 27 flight from New York to Las Vegas caused his co-pilot to bar him from the cockpit, according to a federal agent’s affidavit filed with a criminal complaint the next day. After Osbon began shouting and pounding on the flight deck door, he was restrained by some of the plane’s passengers.
The plane was diverted to Amarillo, where Osbon was taken into custody. He was indicted on April 11.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Denise Williams and Osbon’s defense attorney, E. Dean Roper, told the judge today that both parties agreed to a written stipulation based on the court-ordered examination of Osbon’s competency to stand trial.
The two sides agreed that Osbon is able to communicate with his attorneys and assist in his own defense, and understands the charges against him. Robinson accepted the stipulation after questioning Osbon on each point and about whether he believed the agreement to be in his best interest.
The pilot, wearing a dark green jail uniform and ankle chains, replied, “Yes, your honor” to each of the judge’s questions. Robinson granted the attorneys’ joint motion to seal the report of Osbon’s mental health examination.
Robinson’s decision comes just two days after 10 New York- area passengers on Osbon’s March 27 flight sued the pilot and JetBlue for claims including assault, reckless infliction of emotional distress and negligent supervision, hiring and retention. The passengers are seeking compensatory and punitive damages in New York State Supreme Court in Queens.
The complaint alleges the passengers “experienced fear of imminent death and severe physical injury due to the actions of defendant Osbon and the ensuing struggle to subdue him” and “suffered severe emotional disturbance, anxiety and fear.”
The criminal case is U.S. v. Osbon, 12-cr-00017, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas (Amarillo). The civil case is Euler v. JetBlue Airways Corp., 701032/2012, New York State Supreme Court (Queens).
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