MIAMI (AP) — After raising a shackled right hand and swearing to tell the truth, U.S.-to-Cuba airline hijacker William Potts told a judge Thursday he had an objection at his first federal court appearance to face decades-old air piracy charges.
“I would like to — I’m new at this stuff,” Potts told U.S. Magistrate Judge Alicia Otazo-Reyes. “With total respect — I have to protest these proceedings.”
But Otazo-Reyes cut Potts off before he could explain, saying all she wanted to know was whether he could afford a lawyer. Potts said he had earned about 200 Cuban pesos a month as a farmer outside Havana and had no other appreciable assets or income.
The judge appointed a federal public defender to represent him and Potts did not speak again about his objection.
Potts, 56, was arrested Wednesday after flying to Miami from Cuba to answer for his 1984 hijacking of a Piedmont Airlines jet originally bound from New York to Miami. The FBI says Potts, then a self-described “black liberation” militant, handed a flight attendant a note claiming he had explosives on board and demanding the plane be diverted to Havana.
In the 1960s and 1970s, dozens of American aircraft were hijacked to communist Cuba at the height of the Cold War. But by the time Potts commandeered his plane, they had become less frequent and Cuba had begun prosecuting the hijackers.
Once there, Potts was arrested by Cuban authorities and convicted of air piracy, serving more than 13 years in prison. Potts has said he hopes U.S. authorities will give him credit for that time served, but legal experts say there’s no requirement that they do so.
“Hijacking an aircraft in the United States and taking it to Cuba violates the laws of both sovereigns and a prosecution by Cuba does not bar a subsequent prosecution by the United States,” said David S. Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor who is now in private practice.
The U.S. air piracy charge carries sentence of between 20 years and life behind bars.
Potts did not enter a plea at Thursday’s brief hearing. An arraignment was set for next Wednesday as well as a hearing on whether Potts should be released on bail.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Medetis said she will oppose bail, contending that Potts is a risk of fleeing prosecution and a danger to the community if released.
After these preliminary matters, the case will be handled by U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenbaum in Fort Lauderdale, herself a former federal prosecutor.
Potts, who is originally from New Jersey, described himself in interviews as the “homesick hijacker” and said he decided to return to face the charges to bring closure to the case.
“I’m not the same person I was,” Potts said in an October interview with The Associated Press in Cuba. “The time has come to bring this thing to an end. I know it’s a risk, but it’s a necessary risk. I’m hoping that something good can come out of this.”
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
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2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
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3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
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4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
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5. Jus haaaanngin out
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6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
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7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
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8. new new
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9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
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10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
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11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
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13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
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14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
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15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
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16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
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17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
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18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
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19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
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20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
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22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
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23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
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24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
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25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
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26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
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27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
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28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
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29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
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30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
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