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Off-duty pilot who tried to open doors mid-flight avoids attempted murder charges

Joseph Emerson was indicted by a grand jury on 84 charges relating to the shocking 22 October incident on Tuesday

Mike Bedigan
Los Angeles
Wednesday 06 December 2023 01:40 GMT
Off-duty pilot charged with attempted murder

The off-duty pilot who attempted to shut down a plane’s engines mid-flight after taking psychedelic mushrooms has avoided being indicted by a grand jury for attempted murder.

On Tuesday, Joseph Emerson was indicted on 84 charges relating to the incident on October 22, during the Alaska Airlines flight from Everett, Washington, to San Francisco, California.

Mr Emerson, 44, previously faced 167 state charges, 83 charges of attempted murder, 83 charges of recklessly endangering another person and one count of endangering an aircraft.

A statement from Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt announced that the grand jury indicted him on the latter charges – but not attempted murder.

Mr Emerson is currently lodged at the Multnomah County Detention Center and is set to be arraigned on Thursday 7 December at 9.30am.

Emerson avoided being indicted by a grand jury on charges of attempted murder (Joseph Emerson/Facebook)

In a statement on the grand jury indictment, shared with US outlets, his attorneys said the attempted murder charges "were never appropriate”.

“Captain Emerson never intended to hurt another person or put anyone at risk -- he just wanted to return home to his wife and children,” the statement read.

"Simply put: Captain Emerson thought he was in a dream; his actions were taken in a single-minded effort to wake up from that dream and return home to his family.”

Mr Emerson’s attorneys said they were "disappointed" that the grand jury had indicted their client on the 84 counts.

"Captain Emerson had no criminal intent, and we look forward to being able to present a fulsome defense at trial and bring forth all the facts and circumstances to a jury," his attorneys said.

"Captain Emerson’s defense team is crafting a release plan and expect that he will finally return home to his family by the end of this week."

Mr Emerson is currently lodged at the Multnomah County Detention Centre (The Oregonian)

Mr Emerson has also been charged with one federal count of interfering with flight crew members and attendants, according to the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon.

The former pilot was arrested in Oregon after the flight was forced to make an emergency diversion. Authorities said Mr Emerson was travelling in the flight deck jump seat in the cockpit when he suddenly tried to shut down both of the plane’s engines by pulling the fire extinguisher handles.

He was then subdued by the flight crew as the captain and first officer intervened to keep the engines running. Mr Emerson was escorted by a flight attendant to the rear of the aircraft where he was placed in wrist restraints and belted into the aft jump seat.

According to Alaska Airlines, Mr Emerson also attempted to grab the handle of the emergency exit during the aircraft’s descent before being stopped by a flight attendant.

A federal affidavit seen by The Independent revealed that Mr Emerson told police that he had suffered a “nervous breakdown” and had been taking psychedelic mushrooms.

Mr Emerson explained to the officers: “I didn’t feel okay. It seemed like the pilots weren’t paying attention to what was going on. They didn’t… it didn’t seem right.”

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