Cuba Hijacker William Potts to Plead Guilty in '84 Case

American to plead guilty in '84 Cuba jet hijacking

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC 6's Ari Odzer has the details of a guilty plea from the so-called "Homesick Hijacker."

    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.

    Hijacker Returns to Miami After 30 Years in Cuba

    [MI] Hijacker Returns to Miami After 30 Years in Cuba
    Nearly 30 years after he hijacked a Miami-bound plane and demanded to be flown to Cuba, William Potts voluntarily returned to South Florida Wednesday. NBC 6's Diana Gonzalez has the story.

     
    "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.

    RAW VIDEO: Hijacker William Potts Taken Into FBI Custody

    [MI] RAW VIDEO: Hijacker William Potts Taken Into FBI Custody
    Nearly 30 years after he hijacked a Miami-bound plane and demanded to be flown to Cuba, William Potts voluntarily returned to South Florida Wednesday. Potts, 56, was taken into custody by FBI agents shortly after his charter flight arrived around noon at Miami International Airport.

    "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.