Friday, July 11, 2014

Sentencing for hijacker who flew to Cuba hits snag

Posted on Thursday, 07.10.14

Sentencing for hijacker who flew to Cuba hits snag

MIAMI -- Attorneys for a man who pleaded guilty to hijacking a passenger
jet to Cuba requested a sentencing delay Thursday after federal
prosecutors filed last minute classified documents in the case.

New Jersey native William Potts Jr., 57, could face up to life in prison
for the 1984 hijacking of a Piedmont Airline flight en route from New
York to Miami. Potts voluntarily returned to the U.S. last fall and
agreed to a plea deal in May.

On Thursday, Potts' public defender Robert Berube told a federal judge
he needed more time in light of the latest filing, which even he is
prohibited from seeing.

The non-classified portion of the filing by Assistant U.S. Attorney
Maria Medetis is long on legal precedent but short on clues as to what
information the classified documents contained or why prosecutors felt
the need to submit it two days before sentencing.

Prosecutors did not discuss details during Thursday's hearing, and an AP
email requesting comment from the U.S. Attorney's office in Miami was
not immediately answered.

Potts' sentencing was rescheduled for next Thursday before U.S. District
Judge K. Michael Moore.

Federal prosecutors had charged Potts with kidnapping in lieu of a
previous charge of air piracy, which carried a mandatory prison sentence
of at least 20 years. The kidnapping charge has a maximum life sentence,
but it allows Moore greater flexibility in sentencing. Medetis has not
yet put forth a recommended sentence.

During the hearing, a frustrated Potts said he wanted to a new lawyer
because Berube was not negotiating hard enough to keep him out of prison.

"Are you saying you want to drop the guilty plea?" Moore demanded,
noting that in signing his plea agreement, Potts had acknowledged he
understood the maximum penalties he faced.

Potts conceded he wouldn't drop his plea.

According to the FBI, Potts claimed in his 1984 note to a flight
attendant that he had explosives, threatened to blow up the flight and
demanded $5 million in ransom.

At the time, Potts identified as "a soldier in the Black Liberation
Army," the FBI said. His note urged freedom for black Africans in South
Africa and criticized U.S. interference with Nicaragua's Sandinista

Potts has said he expected to be welcomed when he landed the plane in
Cuba. Instead, Cubans tried him for the hijacking. He spent 13 years in
Cuban prison and two more years in government custody there before being
released and living in an apartment east of Havana.

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Source: MIAMI: Sentencing for hijacker who flew to Cuba hits snag -
Florida Wires - -

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