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JetBlue Pilot Charged with Federal Crimes

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By Edward Tan, JD on March 28, 2012 6:39 PM

Authorities have brought federal charges against the JetBlue captain who flipped out during a flight heading to Las Vegas.

The JetBlue pilot, Clayton Osbon, 49, was formally charged with interfering with a flight crew, CBS News reports. JetBlue Airways has also suspended Osbon, who is a 12-year employee with the airline.

If convicted, Osbon could face stiff penalties for his actions.

The federal criminal complaint reveals that Osbon was charged with violating 49 U.S.C. Section 46504. In essence, the statute makes it a federal crime to assault, intimidate, or otherwise disrupt any flight crew member from performing their job.

If found guilty, he could be fined up to $250,000, imprisoned for 20 years, or both. In addition, if Osbon is found to have used a deadly weapon against the JetBlue crew, he could also get life in prison.

Osbon appears to have an uphill battle if he wants to be cleared of the charges, based on media reports of the incident.

Osbon was supposed to be piloting a JetBlue flight from New York to Las Vegas. He reportedly screamed about a bomb being on board the airplane after he left the cockpit, USA Today reports.

Osbon then allegedly attempted to enter a locked bathroom onboard the plane before running up and down the aisles. He was ultimately restrained after his JetBlue co-pilot requested passengers prevent Osbon from re-entering the locked cockpit.

If true, this evidence could prove quite damaging for Osbon.

Although it's too early to tell, Osbon best chance of remaining free may be an insanity defense. A FBI affidavit reveals that Osbon may have been suffering from some sort of religious mania.

Traditionally, federal courts have employed the M'Naghten Rule when it comes to determining whether a defendant is insane. A sort of legal test, the M'Naghten Rule would require Osbon to show that a mental illness made it impossible for him to understand what he was doing or that his actions were wrong. That is, if he were to pursue such an insanity defense.

For now, the JetBlue captain remains in police custody while prosecutors decide the next step to take in his federal charges.

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