Imagine you’re a book publisher and I’m pitching you with a new book idea. Here’s my captivating story, which I’m convinced will be a best seller. Let me know what you think.
The year was 1984. A flight attendant was handed a note by one the plane’s passengers. It was from a hijacker who threatened to take the lives of all of the 57 passengers and crew members. His demands included that the plane, which was headed to Miami, return to Havana, Cuba. The hijacker, a Black Panther member, wearing all black, brandishing a small pistol, and calling himself, “Lt. Spartacus,” boasted of having a bomb on the plane. He hijacked the plane thinking that upon his landing in Cuba, he’d be welcomed as a fellow revolutionary and be provided military training to assist him with his own uprising in the U.S. The plane’s captain, a military veteran, tried unsuccessfully to negotiate with the hijacker using the plane’s intercom system.
The plane returned to Cuba. The hijacker, whose real name was William Potts, was immediately arrested by Cuban authorities. He was tried and convicted in a Cuban court and sentenced to 15 years in prison. While in Cuba’s violent prison, Potts turned down opportunities to go home to the U.S. prior to his sentence concluding.
After serving his entire prison term, Potts, remained in Cuba, marrying a local gal with whom he had two daughters.
O.K., so here’s where the plot gets a bit dicey. Potts, then chooses to go back to the U.S. Yes, I know, that’s absurd. He knows that if he returns to the U.S., he’ll face federal air piracy charges where he could get as little as 20 years in prison up to a life sentence. Nevertheless, tired and frustrated with Cuba’s political system, he lands at the Miami Airport and is taken into custody by FBI agents.
I know, an unbelievably ridiculous story. Why would Potts return from a life of freedom, albeit in Cuba, and walk into a potential life sentence? No one is going to buy this book, you think. Well, have you heard the expression, “Truth is stranger than fiction?” This story is true, torn from the pages of this morning’s newspaper. All the facts are accurate.
Potts, who since the hijacking has converted to Islam, explained that he was hoping that any time he gets in the U.S. will be reduced by the time he already served in Cuba.
Time for legal analysis. Potts should have spoken to me and/or any other experienced Miami federal criminal defense attorney prior to making this decision. He may not appreciate the fact that the feds take these hijacking cases rather seriously. Also, federal prosecutors are under no legal or moral obligation to give him even a minute credit for the time that he already served in Cuban prison. The remorse and acceptance of responsibility that he now shows is admirable and should be considered by both prosecutors and the judge, however there are no guarantees. If he spent the rest of his life in a U.S. federal prison, I would in no way be surprised. I’m looking forward to seeing how this true story ends.