JetBlue Pilot Indicted For Flight Disruption
By Betsy Blaney
LUBBOCK, Texas -- A JetBlue Airways captain accused of disrupting a Las Vegas-bound flight when he left the cockpit screaming about religion and terrorists has been indicted, according to court documents posted Thursday.
A grand jury in Lubbock indicted Clayton F. Osbon on one count of interference of a flight crew -- the same charge he's been held on since shortly after the March 27 incident.
Osbon's attorney, Dean Roper, declined to comment, the attorney's secretary said Thursday.
Witnesses on Flight 191 say Osbon ran through the cabin yelling about Jesus and al Qaeda. The first officer locked him out of the cockpit and passengers wrestled the captain to the floor. They restrained him with seat-belt extenders and zip-tie handcuffs while the first officer diverted the flight to land in Amarillo.
Osbon (pictured at right in the photo above) is undergoing a court-ordered psychiatric exam to determine whether he was legally sane and can stand trial.
Under federal law, a conviction for interfering with a flight crew can bring up to 20 years in prison. The offense is defined as assaulting or intimidating the crew, interfering with its duties or diminishing its ability to operate the plane.
Investigators say Osbon told his co-pilot, "things just don't matter," and rambled incoherently about religion shortly after the flight departed from New York. His behavior became more erratic as the flight wore on, prosecutors say, and ended with the tense struggle in the cabin.
Passengers said the pilot seemed disoriented, jittery and constantly sipped water when he first stormed from the cockpit and marched through the cabin. Then, they said, he began to rant about threats linked to Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan after crew members tried to calm him down at the back of the plane.
The prosecution motion that sought the psychiatric exam said the events of that day "establish a likelihood that Osbon may be suffering from a mental disease or defect."
A flight attendant's ribs were bruised while trying to restrain Osbon, but no one onboard was seriously hurt.
A day after the incident, JetBlue suspended Osbon pending a review of the flight.
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