News Americas, MIAMI, FL, Fri. Nov. 8, 2013: William Potts, the former New Jersey-born Black Panther “hijacker” who returned to the U.S. Wednesday after declaring he was homesick in Cuba, will be arraigned next week.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Alicia Otazo-Reyes appointed a federal public defender to represent him and an arraignment was set for next Wednesday along with a hearing on whether Potts should be released on bail after his initial appearance in Federal Court Thursday.
Potts did not enter a plea at his brief hearing.
U.S. federal prosecutors said Thursday said they will oppose bail, contending that Potts is a risk of fleeing prosecution and a danger to the community if released.
Potts, 56, returned to the U.S. Wednesday after declaring he was a “homesick hijacker.” He said he decided to return to face the charges to bring closure to the decades old case of air piracy.
Potts threatened to blow up the Piedmont Airlines flight if the pilot did not redirect the jet from Miami to Havana in 1984, according to an indictment.
He then ordered the pilot to divert the jet to Cuba. But it was not entirely clear from court documents what motivated Potts to carry out the hijacking — a crime that, among other issues, has strained U.S.-Cuba relations dating back decades.
Potts was a member of the militant African-American Black Panther movement and expected the Cuban government to give him guerrilla training.
But instead, Cuba imprisoned him for 13 years for piracy before marrying and settling in Havana. He has two daughters who are now in Georgia, USA.
If convicted, Potts could spend 20 years to life in jail. He’s already served 13 years in jail in a Cuban jail.
U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenbaum in Fort Lauderdale will oversee the case from next week.