AMARILLO, Texas (AP) — A JetBlue Airways pilot who disrupted a cross-country flight by leaving the cockpit and yelling about religion and terrorists is free to go home rather than be committed to a mental health facility, a Texas judge ruled Friday.
Clayton Osbon was charged with interference with a flight crew for the March incident, but was found not guilty by reason of insanity in July. A forensic neuropsychologist testified in a short, unpublicized trial that Osbon had a "brief psychotic disorder" brought on by lack of sleep.
U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson said Friday that Osbon would be allowed to go free, but set certain conditions for his release. He will not be allowed to fly or board any commercial or private planes without the permission of Robinson or his probation officer, and he will not be allowed to communicate with any passengers from the March 27 flight he disrupted, according to the judge's order.
"This is a bad situation for you and your family, but you are fortunate to have the type of immediate support that you have," Robinson said.
Passengers on the March 27 flight from New York to Las Vegas said the 49-year-old Osbon ran through the cabin yelling about Jesus and al-Qaida. The flight was diverted and safely landed in Amarillo, Texas.
At least 10 passengers have sued JetBlue over the episode.
Osbon appeared in a green jail jumpsuit and did not make an extended statement in court. His attorney, Dean Roper, said afterward that he didn't know if Osbon would fly again, but was relieved the months-long legal proceeding was at an end.
"It's been a long ordeal for everyone involved, especially Mr. Osbon," Roper said.
Osbon left the federal courthouse without commenting to reporters and was expected head back to his home in Georgia later in the day. Osbon and a friend who attended the hearing planned to make the 1,300-mile trip by car, Roper said.
JetBlue spokeswoman Sharon Jones said Friday that Osbon still was employed and listed on "inactive duty." Jones declined to say if Robinson's order would affect that status.
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