The wife of the off-duty Alaska Airlines pilot accused of trying to crash a plane after taking magic mushrooms has insisted he “never would have knowingly” tried to harm anyone on the flight.
Sarah Stretch supported her husband, Joseph Emerson, 44, on Thursday for his first appearance in federal court in Portland, Oregon, where he pleaded not guilty and waived his right to a preliminary hearing,
“This is not my Joe, this is not any Joe that anybody knows,” Stretch said of her pilot husband, whose charges include 83 counts of attempted murder.
“That is not the man that I married,” she told reporters after his appearance, according to The Oregonian
“I don’t know how to explain it but it just wasn’t him.”
She tearfully said her husband was struggling with depression but “never would have knowingly done any of that.”
“That’s not the man that all of these people in this world are coming together to support him — [to] love him,” she said.
Several other family members accompanied the accused rogue aviator, including his parents and his father-in-law, the news outlet reported.
Emerson, wearing blue scrubs, turned toward his family and whispered, “I love you,” when he was brought into the courtroom.
A relative reached toward him to do a fist bump in the air.
He has been charged with interfering with flight crew members and attendants — and faces dozens of state charges in Oregon, including 83 felony counts of attempted murder, 83 counts of reckless endangerment, and one count of endangering an aircraft.
US Magistrate Judge Youlee Yim You ordered Emerson to be held as a danger and risk of flight on the interference charge, pending his next court appearance on Nov. 22.
“This is a complete shock to everyone,” Emerson’s lawyer, Ethan Levi, said after the hearing, adding that his client wanted to thank the pilots for their “timely and heroic actions” and the flight attendants for their kindness.
“Mr. Emerson did not intend to harm himself or any other person. He was not suicidal or homicidal,” Levi told reporters.
The off-duty pilot has told police he had taken magic mushrooms before the flight from Everett, Washington, to San Francisco on Sunday, when he is accused of trying to cut the fuel to the engines by activating the fire suppression system before he was held down by the crew.
Even while restrained, he tried to open the emergency doors on the Alaskan flight, which was being operated by Horizon Air, as the pilots scrambled to make an emergency landing.
Emerson later told investigators that he had a “nervous breakdown” after not sleeping for 40 hours and taking psychedelic mushrooms for the first time.
“I didn’t feel okay. It seemed like the pilots weren’t paying attention to what was going on. They didn’t … it didn’t seem right,” Emerson told cops, according to an affidavit obtained by The Post.
“You need to cuff me right now or it’s going to be bad,” he told a flight attendant after getting booted from the cockpit, the document states.
“I messed everything up,” Emerson told the crew member, adding that “he tried to kill everybody.”
There were 83 people aboard.
An amended complaint filed Thursday says Emerson had not slept for 48 hours, not 40, according to Oregon Live.
Emerson has told investigators he became depressed after the recent death of his best friend — who Stretch said was the best man at their wedding — but the amended complaint says the friend died six years ago, ABC7 reported.
Levi said he hopes the case will be consolidated in one court, and not pursued in both federal and state courts, and that he plans to argue at a future hearing for Emerson’s release.
“He’s not only safe, he’s not a flight risk,” Levi told the judge.
Emerson is being held without bail on the state charges.
He’s in custody at the Multnomah County Detention Center.