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JetBlue Pilot’s Hearing Postponed After Testing Ordered

April 7 (Bloomberg) -- Clayton Osbon, the JetBlue Airways Corp. pilot ordered by a judge to undergo a psychiatric examination after his behavior led to the diversion of his flight, won’t have a detention hearing on April 9.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Clinton Averitte in Amarillo, Texas, yesterday granted Osbon’s request to waive the April 9 hearing, which Christy Lee Drake, the prosecutor on the case, said the U.S. doesn’t oppose.

Osbon, 49, was taken into custody March 27 after his co-pilot cut short a Las Vegas-bound flight to make an emergency landing in Amarillo, Texas. Osbon, who was evaluated at Northwest Texas Healthcare System, was charged with interfering with a flight crew and sent to the county jail in Amarillo.

He was ordered on April 4 to undergo a psychiatric examination at a federal medical facility to determine if he’s suffering from mental illness and not competent to stand trial. Prosecutors said the exam was required to determine whether Osbon was “legally insane” at the time of his offense.

“We’ll wait to see what happens” after Osbon’s evaluation, Drake said yesterday in a phone interview. Drake said she didn’t know what federal medical facility he’ll be taken to. Osbon must be indicted before a grand jury within 30 days of April 2, his first court appearance, she said.

‘Unable to Understand’

U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson said the exam was necessary to determine whether Osbon is “unable to understand the nature and consequences of the proceedings against him.”

During the flight, Osbon began reciting numbers and talking about “sins in Las Vegas,” according to prosecutors. The co-pilot locked him out of the flight deck and passengers subdued him as he banged on the cockpit door, prayed and talked about “Jesus, Sept. 11, Iraq, Iran and terrorists,” prosecutors said.

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. At the April 2 court appearance, Osbon told a magistrate he understood the accusations he faced.

Osbon has been suspended from duty pending the conclusion of an investigation, according to New York-based JetBlue.

The case is U.S. v. Osbon, 2:12-MJ-22, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas (Amarillo).

To contact the reporter on this story: Joel Rosenblatt in San Francisco at jrosenblatt@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew Dunn at adunn8@bloomberg.net

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