He hijacked a Piedmont Airlines jet to Cuba 30 years ago, calling himself Lt. Spartacus of the Black Liberation Army. But then last year, William Potts decided to face justice in the U.S. He spoke to a news crew in Havana just before he flew to Miami.
"Very anxious to return and resolve this conflict that's been going on for too long," Potts said at the time.
FBI agents took Potts into custody as soon as he got off the plane in Miami. Thursday, Potts pleaded guilty in federal court in Fort Lauderdale to kidnapping. It was a pre-arranged plea agreement. The government dropped the air piracy charge to give Judge Robin Rosenberg more sentencing flexibility.
"He knows that he made an extremely serious and dangerous mistake, 1984 was a different time," said Robert Berube, a federal public defender who is representing Potts.
"The plane was taken to Cuba and he thought he was going to be greeted with open arms by Fidel Castro and it didn't work out that way," Berube explained. "He was incarcerated for 15 years, and we're hoping that the 15 years will be taken into consideration when he's sentenced here. There's no guarantee of that, but 15 years in a Cuban prison is very hard time."
Potts acknowledged in court that he understands the judge can sentence him, potentially, up to life in prison. He left Cuba anyway.
"To go home, to my family, to my daughters," Potts said last year.
After serving his prison time in Cuba, he got married, had two children, and lived in Havana. His children are already in the United States, and his wife is making arrangements to come here as well. Potts could've stayed in Cuba instead of taking a chance on spending a lot more prison time in the U.Ss.
"It's because of the family, he knows that his kids are better off here, his family's better off here than in Cuba, and he wants to put this behind him," Berube said.
Sentencing is scheduled for July 11th. Government prosecutors have not yet given the judge their recommendation for a sentence.