JetBlue Pilot Pleads Not Guilty to Interfering With Crew

Clayton Osbon, the JetBlue Airways Corp. (JBLU) pilot arrested in March after his erratic behavior led to the diversion of a flight, pleaded not guilty to a charge that he interfered with his flight crew.

Osbon entered the plea today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Clinton Averitte in Amarillo, Texas, after a June 15 hearing in which he was found mentally fit to stand trial by mutual agreement of the prosecution and defense. Osbon told the court in April that he would rely on an insanity defense.

Osbon’s behavior while captain of 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. After Osbon began shouting and pounding on the flight deck door, he was restrained by passengers.

The plane was diverted to Amarillo, where Osbon was taken into custody. A U.S. judge on April 4 ordered the pilot to take a competency exam evaluating his fitness to stand trial and whether he was sane at the time of his alleged offense. He was indicted on April 11 and remains in custody.

Ten New York-area passengers on the 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, where the airline is based.

If convicted, Osbon could be sentenced to as long as 20 years in prison and fined $250,000, according to U.S. Attorney Sarah R. Saldana in Dallas.

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).

To contact the reporters on this story: Cathy Martindale in Amarillo, Texas; Joel Rosenblatt in San Francisco at jrosenblatt@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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