In any event, the note from Potts also demanded $5 million, threatened to blow up the plane and kill passengers if it landed in Miami, discussed freedom for “brothers and sisters” in South Africa and criticized U.S. interference with Nicaragua’s Sandinista government. The plane was flown to Havana, where Cuban authorities boarded it and took Potts into custody.
They later found an electric bill that had fallen out of Potts’ pocket containing the name Kay Brown of Paterson, N.J. Brown told the FBI that Potts was her nephew and that she had given him $120 to pay her electric bill but hadn’t seen him since.
The Piedmont ticket cost $119.
The aunt also gave agents a photo of Potts, and the FBI said three passengers identified him in a photo lineup as the man who hijacked the flight.
Potts said he thought Cuba would welcome him and offer him training as a guerrilla. Instead, he was tried and convicted of air piracy. He was later granted permanent residency in Cuba and has been living recently in a modest apartment block east of Havana.
In 2009, Potts called himself the “homesick hijacker” in an Associated Press article about his desire to one day return to the U.S.
Even though Potts could have stayed in Cuba, he decided to come home and take his chances with the legal system. The pending U.S. case against him keeps him from living his life fully, he said.
“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.”