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Judge: Disruptive JetBlue pilot to stand trial

A judge ruled Friday that a JetBlue Airways pilot who left the cockpit during a flight from New York to Las Vegas and screamed about religion and terrorists is mentally competent to stand trial.

U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson issued her ruling in Amarillo after hearing evidence about 49-year-old Clayton F. Osbon's mental competency.


Osbon recently underwent a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation at a medical facility to see if he could assist properly in his defense and to determine if he was sane at the time of the alleged offense. Robinson ruled Friday that the evaluation should be sealed.

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She did not set a trial date.

Robinson read from an agreement between Osbon's attorney, Dean Roper, and U.S. Assistant Attorney Denise Williams, stating that Osbon "is not now suffering from a mental disease or defect which would interfere with his ability to meet the legal criteria of competency to stand trial."

Osbon, who appeared thinner than at his first court appearance in early April, responded, "Yes, your Honor," when Robinson asked him if he agreed with that assessment.

Roper and Williams both declined to comment after the hearing.

Roper previously filed a motion notifying the court that he plans to use an insanity defense at trial.

Osbon was indicted in April on one charge of interfering with a flight crew. The offense is defined as assaulting or intimidating the crew, interfering with its duties or diminishes its ability to operate the plane.

If convicted, Osbon could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.

The allegation stems from an in-air incident March 27 after the plane left New York for Las Vegas.

Osbon, of Richmond Hills, Ga., who has been with JetBlue since 2000, allegedly ran through the plane's cabin yelling about Jesus and al-Qaida. The first officer locked him out of the cockpit and passengers wrestled him to the floor before the plane made an emergency landing in Amarillo.

Shortly after leaving New York on the five-hour flight, Osbon started rambling about religion to the first officer, according to court documents. He scolded air traffic controllers to quiet down, then turned off the radios altogether, and dimmed the monitors in the cockpit. He said aloud that "things just don't matter" and encouraged his co-pilot that they take a leap of faith.

"We're not going to Vegas," Osbon said, according to the affidavit.

Osbon was suspended after the incident. JetBlue Airways spokeswoman Sharon Jones said Thursday that Osbon remains an employee and his status is inactive.

The Associated Press and NBCNewYork contributed to this report.

The JetBlue pilot who suffered an apparent mid-flight meltdown last week is out of the hospital and in jail after making his first appearance in federal court. NBC's Gabe Gutierrez reports.

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