Antelope Valley Press

Ex-pilot who tried to cut plane’s engines is freed


PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — An ex-Alaska Airlines pilot accused of trying to cut the engines of a passenger flight while off-duty and riding in an extra seat in the cockpit was released from jail pending trial Thursday, after an Oregon judge approved it with conditions that include keeping away from aircraft.

Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Ryan made the decision as Joseph Emerson pleaded not guilty to reduced charges of reckless endangerme­nt; he previously faced attempted murder charges.

Emerson, of Pleasant Hill, Calif., has also pleaded not guilty to a federal charge of interferin­g with a flight crew. The judge in that case also agreed that he could be released pending trial.

Emerson was released from jail around 5 p.m. He and his wife, Sarah Stretch, shared a tearful embrace as he walked out. He declined to comment. Noah Horst, his lawyer, said the couple planned to drive home to California.

The release conditions include that Emerson undergo mental health services, stay away from drugs and alcohol, and not come within 30 feet of an operable aircraft. His bail was set at $50,000.

Emerson’s wife said she was happy her husband was coming home. Speaking to reporters through tears after the arraignmen­t, she also said she was glad that the case has raised awareness about pilot mental health.

“I’m saddened that this situation had to happen to my husband and to the people it affected. But I know that this has created a movement and momentum to help thousands of other pilots,” Stretch said.

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