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Judge allows plane threat suspect to return home to Riverview

BANGOR, Maine — An Air Force veteran accused of making up a story about dynamite and a detonator while aboard a trans-Atlantic flight, causing it to be diverted, will be allowed to return to his Riverview home while awaiting trial.

Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuk on Wednesday modified bail conditions for Derek Stansberry, who has been living with his girlfriend's family in Matamoras, Pa. He remains free on $20,000 bond, but he'll be allowed to return to Riverview, where he will continue to be under house arrest.

Stansberry, 27, handed a rambling note to flight attendants aboard Flight 273 on April 27 saying his passport was fake, and later told an air marshal he had dynamite and a detonator in his boots, according to records.

Defense attorney Walter McKee said after the arraignment Wednesday that he is consulting with forensic psychologists "to help us figure out what happened up there with Derek."

Theories for his erratic behavior include his possible use of the sleep aid Ambien.

"This was a guy who was 100- percent squared away. There was nothing to suggest he was someone who would intentionally, knowingly or even negligently make any kind of threat on an aircraft," McKee said. "It's just not Derek Stansberry."

The former Air Force intelligence specialist is charged in U.S. District Court in Maine, where the fight was diverted, with interfering with a flight crew and making threats.

Combined, the two charges carry a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison. He pleaded not guilty Wednesday.

At the time of the flight, Stansberry was returning to Florida from his work for a defense contractor in Burkina Faso, in western Africa. He told investigators he had taken Ambien.

Stansberry's father said he blamed the Ambien, which can cause nightmares, sleepwalking and sleep-eating episodes.

"There's no doubt in my mind. Looking at the pictures, the dead-man stare, and everything else. He hit a wall and he didn't know what was going on. It's totally out of character," Richard Stansberry said in a phone interview from Texas, where he's on deployment with the Army Reserve.

Judge allows plane threat suspect to return home to Riverview 07/28/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 10:55pm]
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