'Homesick Hijacker' To Appear In Miami Courtroom

Nearly 30 years ago, William Potts hijacked a plane to Cuba. He is scheduled to be in court in Miami on Thursday. It's the first time he's been in the U.S. for nearly three decades.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It's been nearly 30 years since William Potts hijacked a plane to Cuba. He once called himself the Homesick Hijacker. He's now returned to the U.S. from Havana, hoping to find closure. Today, he'll find himself inside a courtroom in Miami.

Here's NPR's Greg Allen.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: It was in 1984 on a Piedmont Airlines flight from New York to Miami, that William Potts handed a note to the flight attendant. In the note, Potts said he had explosives and accomplices on board. He demanded $5 million and he threatened to shoot passengers and blow up the plane unless it landed in Havana.

Potts identified himself at Lieutenant Spartacus, a soldier in the Black Liberation Army. When the plane landed in Havana, Cuban authorities arrested Potts and put him on trial for air piracy. He served 13 years in a Cuban prison. After he was released, he married, had children and worked as a farmer.

Now 56 years old and divorced, he began talking with U.S. diplomats in Havana about obtaining a passport and returning to America. In Havana, Potts told reporters he felt it was time to seek a fresh start. He said he feels, quote, "I did the crime and I did the time. And the United States has to recognize that."

On the flight to Miami, in an interview with CNN, Potts seemed to express remorse for the hijacking.

WILLIAM POTTS: That act of terrorism that I did has come back to haunt me every day.

ALLEN: When he landed in Miami, Potts was arrested by the FBI. He'll make his first court appearance today. The U.S. Attorney in Miami released a nearly 30-years old indictment charging him with air piracy, charges that carry a 20-year prison sentence.

Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami.

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