News and Facts about Cuba

American who hijacked Miami-bound jetliner to Cuba to plead guilty to new kidnapping charge

Posted on Thursday, 05.01.14

American who hijacked Miami-bound jetliner to Cuba to plead guilty to new kidnapping charge
[email protected]

Williams Potts Jr., the self-described black militant who hijacked a U.S. jetliner to Cuba 30 years ago, plans to plead guilty to a new kidnapping charge Thursday that will help him avoid a minimum-mandatory 20-year sentence for the original charge, air piracy.

The former New Jersey man, who commandeered the Miami-bound commercial jet to Havana in 1984, finally surrendered to U.S. authorities in November after living the life of a and fugitive in Cuba. Potts said he wanted to face the American justice system and reconnect with his two daughters now residing in the United States.

Assistant federal public defender Robert Berube negotiated the plea agreement with prosecutors, but language preventing him from commenting about his client’s incarceration in Cuba delayed Potts’ hearing on the deal this week. It would allow Potts, now being held in the Miami Federal Detention Center, to get some credit for the 13 years of prison time he served in Cuba for the hijacking.

In November, Potts, 57, entered a not-guilty plea to the air-piracy charge, which carries between 20 years and life in prison. The U.S. attorney’s office plans to drop that charge, after Potts agrees to plead guilty to the new kidnapping offense in Fort Lauderdale federal court on Thursday.

Although that new offense carries up to life in prison, it gives U.S. District Robin Rosenbaum leeway to craft a prison sentence that takes into account Potts’ lengthy incarceration in Cuba. The kidnapping offense imposes no minimum-mandatory punishment.

During the defendant’s bond hearing in November, a prosecutor said that Potts “described what he did as an act of terrorism” to federal agents who brought him back from Havana early that month.

Potts also confessed to air piracy verbally and in writing after he was formally by FBI agents at Miami International on Nov. 6, Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Medetis told a federal magistrate judge during the bond hearing.

Judge Jonathan Goodman granted the prosecutor’s request that Potts be held before trial because he is both a risk of flight and danger to the community, citing a potentially long prison sentence and the legal “presumption” of detention for such an offense.

An FBI affidavit describing the case said Potts claimed to have explosives aboard the New York-to-Miami flight on March 27, 1984, demanding its diversion to Havana.

Potts, aka “Lt. Spartacus,” described himself then as a black militant who threatened to blow up the Piedmont Airlines jet and kill passengers if it landed in Miami, according to a note he handed to the flight crew. He also demanded $5 million.

An FBI agent, Affell Grier, testified at the bond hearing that Potts “explained that he committed the crime” and “wrote out a statement” after his recent arrest at MIA.

In interviews in Cuba, Potts said he wanted to return home and face justice after all these years. He got married while living in Cuba, and his two daughters now live in the United States.

In the interviews, Potts said that when he hijacked the Piedmont flight to Cuba, he had hoped to be welcomed in the communist-run island nation as a revolutionary and be given guerrilla training.

Instead, the Castro government arrested him, tried him for the hijacking, and imprisoned him. Potts’ commandeering of the airliner came several years after a wave of similar hijackings had largely subsided.

According to the FBI, Potts paid $119 for the ticket he used to hijack the Piedmont flight. An aunt in Paterson, N.J., said she had given him $120 the day before to pay her electric bill and had not seen him since.

Source: American who hijacked Miami-bound jetliner to Cuba to plead guilty to new kidnapping charge – Cuba – –

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Follow Us
Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookVisit Us On Google PlusCheck Our Feed
May 2014
« Apr   Jun »
  1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11
12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31  
Donate for Servers
We run various sites in defense of human rights and need support to pay for more powerful servers. Thank you.
Cubaverdad on Twitter
Tweets by @Cubaverdad