The affidavit filed along with the government’s criminal charge against a JetBlue pilot on March 28 in the Northern District of Texas details the bizarre statements he allegedly made as he had to be held down by crew and passengers while the plane he’d been piloting from New York City to Las Vegas was landed in Amarillo. Those statements, according to the affidavit, allege that Clayton Frederick Osbon yelled “jumbled comments about Jesus, September 11th, Iraq, Iran, and terrorists. He also yelled ‘Guys, push it to full throttle.’”
According to that affidavit, a flight attendant suffered injuries during the struggle on the plane. The affidavit was filed along with a charge against Osbon for “Interference with Flight Crew Members and Attendants.”
Osbon could not be located for comment, and an attorney has not yet filed an appearance for him in federal court. Christy Drake, an assistant U.S. Attorney who is handling his case, did not immediately return a call for comment.
If it seems odd that the federal government would handle what amounts to a simple assault case, that’s because they have to, explains Paul Coggins, a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas from 1993 to 2001. “The reason is when the plane is in the air, the U.S. Attorney sort of becomes the district attorney at that point,” says Coggins, who is now a partner in the Dallas office of Locke Lord. “It’s kind of bizarre. It can be on takeoff or at the destination or anywhere in between.’’
Coggins saw his share of such cases while he was U.S. Attorney because his jurisdiction included the busy D/FW International Airport. But still, the JetBlue pilot case is rare. Usually, airline disturbance cases involve drunk or unruly passengers — not the plane’s crew, Coggins says. “I don’t remember a pilot case. In all of the cases I remember it was some kind of obstreperous passenger. It was always a bad passenger.’’
--- John Council