Tuesday, June 4News That Matters

Alaska Air pilot accused of midflight sabotage posts bail and denies allegations: ‘Mr. Emerson is innocent’


Zane Sparling, OregonLive.com

Published: 22 hours ago

PORTLAND, Ore. — The off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot, Joseph D. Emerson, who was accused of attempting to flood the engines of a passenger jet with more than 80 people aboard posted bail and was expected to be released from the Multnomah County Circuit Court to face a revised 84-count indictment that reduced most of the charges against him to misdemeanor reckless endangerment.

A state judge set bail at $50,000 for Emerson, who must now abide by release conditions including staying away from all aircraft and controlled substances, including alcohol. Standing with Emerson’s family members, defense attorney Noah Horst described the seasoned pilot as an upstanding community member whose use of psychedelic mushrooms addled his brain and rendered him unable to intentionally commit a crime.

Emerson’s pilot’s license has been suspended and he claims he believed he was trapped in a waking nightmare when he tried to disable the engines of a San Francisco-bound Horizon Airlines flight on Oct. 22, two days after taking mushrooms at a celebration of life for his best friend, Scott Pinney, who had died six years earlier.

Prosecutors initially filed a charging document that accused Emerson of attempted murder but the felony charges needed approval from a six-person grand jury to stick. Over four days in November and December, the grand jury heard testimony before Emerson was granted release on separate federal charges. The case has brought new attention to the federal rules that can deprive pilots of their professional status and salary for years if they report a diagnosis of depression.