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Federal judge ends case of Riverview vet who made threats aboard jet

BANGOR, Maine — A former Air Force intelligence specialist from Riverview who claimed to have explosives aboard a trans-Atlantic flight suffered from a psychotic break caused by a lack of sleep, dehydration and body-building substances and is not a threat, a judge ruled Tuesday.

The federal judge found Derek Stansberry, 27, not guilty by reason of insanity on charges stemming from his actions aboard an April 2010 Paris-to-Atlanta flight that was diverted to Bangor.

"It's something that no one expected to happen (and) most importantly that no one expects will happen again," defense attorney Walter McKee said after the hearing in federal court.

Delta Air Lines Flight 273 was diverted after Stansberry gave a rambling note to a flight attendant and told air marshals who questioned him he had dynamite.

After the Airbus A330 landed, Stansberry told FBI agents he made up the story to distract attention from classified information he claimed to possess. At the time, he was returning home from the African nation of Burkina Faso, where he had been working for a defense contractor.

Stansberry was charged with interfering with a flight crew, and conveying false information and making threats. The charges carried a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison. Earlier this summer, Stansberry was allowed to return home on bail until trial but was kept under house arrest.

On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge John Woodcock ruled that sleep deprivation, lack of food, stress, dehydration and body-building supplements contributed to Stansberry's psychotic break, which lasted 72 hours.

It was a rare case in which four psychiatrists and psychologists who examined Stansberry, along with the prosecution, defense and judge, all were in agreement.

Because of the judge's verdict, Stansberry will be allowed to stay in Florida with no restrictions. He and his girlfriend left court without speaking to reporters.

Before leaving the Air Force in 2009, Stansberry held a top security clearance while working for the 4th Special Operations Squadron at Hurlburt Field in the Panhandle, the Air Force said.

McKee said Tuesday that Stansberry is now a straight-A student in college. "There's no question that he's a super squared-away guy," McKee said. "There's no question that he's going to do great things."

Federal judge ends case of Riverview vet who made threats aboard jet 08/23/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 23, 2011 10:00pm]
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