BANGOR, Maine — A federal judge on Wednesday gave a Florida man permission to return to his home state after he pleaded not guilty to charges stemming from an April incident that caused a trans-Atlantic flight to be diverted to Bangor International Airport.
Derek Stansberry, 27, of Riverview, Fla., was indicted earlier this month for interfering with flight crewmembers and attendants, as well as giving false information and making threats.
In a firm, clear voice, Stansberry answered, “Not guilty,” when asked how he pleaded to the charges.
His trial was set tentatively for Sept. 7 in federal court in Bangor.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuk on Wednesday accepted the recommendation of U.S. Probation and Pre-trial Services that Stansberry remain free on $20,000 unsecured bail with electronic monitoring and other strict conditions but that he be allowed to live at his home in a Tampa suburb. The judge said Stansberry has been abiding by his bail conditions, which include not flying and receiving counseling.
When he was released on bail in May, Stansberry was ordered to live in Matamoras, Pa., with the parents of his girlfriend Jillian Krause, age and address unknown. Krause accompanied Stansberry to court Wednesday. Both declined to speak to reporters.
“Derek has pled not guilty,” Stansberry’s attorney, Walter McKee of Augusta, said after his client’s arraignment. “There really is no question in anyone’s mind that this was completely out of character for Derek and there was something going on with him psychologically that day.”
Prosecutors allege that on April 27 Stansberry passed a note to a member of the flight crew that said he had a fake passport. When questioned by federal air marshals, he told them he had dynamite in a laptop in his backpack, according to court documents. The Paris-to-Atlanta Delta Air Lines flight ended up landing at Bangor International Airport.
Stansberry’s travel papers were in order, and there was no dynamite, according to court documents. He told investigators he took eight Ambien pills before boarding the plane. Ambien is commonly used by travelers to sleep on long flights.
The former intelligence specialist, who left the U.S. Air Force with an honorable discharge, had been working for Eatontown, N.J.-based R4 Inc. and was performing military-to-military cooperation activities in the west African nation Burkina Faso, according to previously published reports. He was returning to his home in Riverview when the alleged incident occurred.
“We’ve been consulting with the top forensic psychologists in the state to help us figure out what happened up there with Derek,” McKee said. “Every person involved in this case agrees that we all need to figure out what the genesis was of Derek’s psychological condition on that flight. Once we have those answers, I am confident this case will be resolved.”
If convicted, Stansberry faces up to 20 years in prison on the interference charge and up to five years in prison on the charge of making false statements and threats. He could be fined up to $250,000 on each count.
In addition, Stansberry could be ordered to reimburse Delta Air Lines for the cost of the flight diversion and the expense of putting up the passengers and crew overnight in Bangor hotels.