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updated: 11/9/2012 4:48 PM

JetBlue pilot who diverted flight freed, banned from flying

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Bloomberg News

Clayton Osbon, the JetBlue Airways Corp. pilot arrested in March after his erratic behavior led to the diversion of a flight, was freed from federal custody and forbidden to board or fly an aircraft.

U.S. District Judge Mary Lou Robinson in Amarillo, Texas, today ordered the release of Osbon, 49, who in July was found not guilty by reason of insanity of interfering with his flight crew. The judge required him to seek treatment at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina.

Osbon's behavior while captain of a March 27 flight from New York to Las Vegas caused his co-pilot to bar him from the cockpit, according to a federal agent's affidavit. After Osbon began shouting and pounding on the flight deck door, he was restrained by passengers.

He pleaded not guilty on June 28, after a previous hearing at which he was found mentally fit to stand trial by mutual agreement of the prosecution and defense. He later waived his right to a trial.

The U.S. didn't contest a psychologist's conclusion that Osbon suffered from a "severe mental disease or defect" at the time he committed his offense, according to a court filing.

'Inactive Status'

"Mr. Osbon is still employed by JetBlue on inactive status," Alison Croyle, a spokeswoman for the Long Island City, New York-based airline, said in an e-mailed statement. "We aren't commenting further out of respect for his privacy."

She declined to comment on whether Osbon would remain a JetBlue employee in some other capacity.

Osbon must report regularly to his probation officer and follow a prescribed medical, psychiatric and psychological regime. He can't board any aircraft, either as a crew member or a passenger, without permission from the court, or hold any pilot's job. Osbon will be subject to the conditions until the court modifies or terminates them.

His defense attorney, Dean Roper, said a friend who also works at JetBlue would drive Osbon from Amarillo to his home in Richmond Hill, Georgia, near Savannah.

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