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Man In 1984 Airline Hijacking Will Appear In U.S. Court

An American man who hijacked a plane to Cuba nearly 30 years ago will be in a U.S. court Thursday. William Potts returned from Cuba on Wednesday, saying he wanted to resolve lingering legal issues around his actions. He was arrested immediately.

Potts has previously expressed his desire to return to the U.S. He did so this week after taking a cab to the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba, which then sent him to Miami. Potts has said he hopes his time served in a Cuban prison will be taken into account by U.S. authorities.

"I'm very anxious to return; this has been going on too long. I'm hoping for a just solution," he said, according to Reuters.

From Miami, NPR's Greg Allen reports about the case for our Newscast unit:

"It was in 1984, on a flight from New York to Miami. William Potts handed a note to the flight attendant identifying himself as Lt. Spartacus with the Black Liberation Army. He said he had explosives and accomplices onboard and demanded that the plane land in Havana.

"When it landed, Cuban authorities arrested him. He was charged with air piracy and served 13 years in prison.

"After being released, Potts married, started a family and worked as a farmer. Now 56 years old and divorced, he told reporters in Havana he was returning to the U.S. to seek closure.

"Upon his arrival, the FBI took him into custody. He makes his first court appearance later today before a judge in Miami. He faces a possible sentence of 20 years to life."

A resident of New Jersey at the time of the hijacking, Potts bought a ticket to fly on Piedmont Airlines from New York's LaGuardia Airport to Miami. Authorities say that as the plane approached Miami International Airport, he delivered his threatening note and locked himself in the bathroom.

Potts was indicted on charges of aircraft piracy in 1985.

According to the federal indictment, a utility bill fell out of the hijacker's pocket as he was being escorted off the plane in Havana. Picked up by a passenger, the bill was in the name of Kay Brown, Potts' aunt in New Jersey, who said she'd given her nephew $120 to pay her electric bill. The indictment says Potts bought his plane ticket to Miami for $119.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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