MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – The homesick hijacker who returned to the U.S. from Cuba Wednesday is set to make his first appearance in Miami federal court on Thursday.
Almost 30 years after hijacking a Miami-Bound plane to Havana, the FBI arrested 56-year-old William Potts shortly after his charter plane landed Wednesday at Miami International Airport.
Potts is scheduled to make his initial appearance in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Alicia M. Otazo-Reyes Thursday at 2:00 p.m., where the main business is likely to be appointing him an attorney.
Potts faces 20 years to life in prison if convicted of U.S. air piracy charges in the 1984 hijacking. He already served more than 13 years in Cuba for the same offense.[worldnow id=9498462 width=420 height=266 type=video]
According to the Associated Press, Potts said he decided to return to the U.S. to face charges. He indicated that he is hoping for credit for the time he served in a Cuban prison.
Griselda Gaush was on the plane Wednesday, sitting two rows behind Potts. She said that when the plane landed he stood up and grabbed his luggage from the overhead bin, said thank you, and was the first one to exit the plane.
Before boarding the plane at Jose Marti International Airport, Potts told a CBS News crew he was very anxious.
“I’m very anxious to return and with all of the conflict that’s been going on for too long. We’re hoping for a best solution to this problem,” said Potts. “I want to go home to my family, to my daughter, that’s what I’m hoping, that’s what I’m expecting.”
Potts was indicted on air piracy charges for diverting a Miami-bound Piedmont Airlines passenger plane to Havana, Cuba in 1984. According to court documents, Potts threatened to blow up the airplane and shoot passengers if the plane landed in Miami. The pilot diverted the aircraft and landed in Havana where Cuban authorities escorted Potts off the plane.
Potts has long been beyond the reach of U.S. justice in Havana, where he served time for a hijacking, then settled down with a Cuban woman, started a family and made his livelihood as a farmer.
He is now divorced but still close with his ex-wife.
“It’s time it had closure. Why leave it hanging, why leave this gaping uncertainty?” he said. “So I want to resolve that because … having completed my sentence, I feel like I want to put all that stuff behind me. I don’t want that lingering over or impeding anything I might want to do. Once you’ve paid your debt to society you’re entitled to a fresh start.”
(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)