Pilot involved in Horizon jet midflight incident set to be released home to California

A former Alaska Airlines pilot from the Bay Area facing multiple endangerment charges has been released to his home in California after pleading not guilty in federal and state court in Portland, Oregon.

Joseph Emerson of Pleasant Hill on Thursday faced an Oregon state judge on a single felony count of endangering an aircraft and 83 misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment after authorities say he tried to shut down the engines on a Horizon Air flight from an extra seat in the cockpit.

His release came under certain conditions, including posting $50,000 bail.

In October, Emerson was hitching a ride to San Francisco from Washington state on the Horizon plane when he allegedly tried to cut fuel to the engines. The pilots were able to stop him, and he left the cockpit of his own accord. The flight then was diverted to Portland, where Emerson was arrested.

Emerson’s attorney argues that he was struggling with depression and hadn’t slept since taking psychedelic mushrooms two days before the flight.

Emerson’s wife, Sarah Stretch, says he never intended to hurt anyone and is hopeful to go home while the case plays out.

“It’s a hard situation for a lot of people, not just for Joe but for the people who were on the airplane, the pilots, for the flight attendants,” Stretch said.

Emerson initially was charged with attempted murder, but those counts were reduced after a grand jury heard the evidence.

Emerson’s wife said earlier she would be driving Emerson home, as a judge ordered him to not board a plane.

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