Federal sentencing guidelines in the United States call for a minimum mandatory of 20 years for air piracy. If prosecutors give Potts credit for 13 years, he could get a 7-year term. Other factors - his cooperation with authorities, for example - could also influence the outcome of his case.
Potts, 56, is being held at the Federal Detention Center in Miami. His trial is set to begin on Dec. 16. That date could change if his lawyer or prosecutors aren't ready. If the case goes to trial, prosecutors expect the trial would last three days.
Both sides still need to examine dozens of documents in the case. Prosecutors, for instance, are waiting to receive State Department documents detailing meetings that Potts had with officials at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana before leaving Cuba on Nov. 6.
Potts' lawyer is Robert Berube, an assistant federal public defender in Fort Lauderdale. The prosecutor in the case is Maria K. Medetis, an assistant U.S. attorney in Miami.
|Wilfredo A. Ferrer|
Ferrer told the Daily Business Review:
My mom was a legal secretary. My dad was a CPA in Cuba, but he didn't speak any English. My dad would wear signs saying he would cut grass for $5.U.S. District Court Judge Robin S. Rosenbaum is the trial judge. She is currently the Obama administration's nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit.
Rosenbaum presided over a Nov. 19 hearing to decide if Potts could be released pending trial. She wrote:
Having considered the evidence presented at the pre-trial detention hearing, the pre-trial services report, and the factors enumerated in 18 U.S.C. ' 3142(g), this Court finds that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the safety of the community and the appearance of the defendant as required if the defendant is released on bond. Therefore, this
Court orders the detention of the defendant prior to trial and until the conclusion of trial.
In accordance with the provisions of 18 U.S.C. ' 3142(i)(1), this Court makes the following findings of fact and statement of reasons for the detention:
- The defendant is charged by indictment with aircraft piracy by seizing, by force or violence or threat of force or violence, in violation of Title 49, United States Code, Section 1472(i) (1984).
- At the pre-trial detention hearing, the United States proffered evidence that on or about March 27, 1984, the defendant boarded a Piedmont Airlines flight from LaGuardia Airport in New York, New York to Miami International Airport in Miami, Florida.
- As the aircraft was making its approach to Miami International Airport, the defendant passed a note to a flight attendant stating that the defendant was a member of the Black Liberation Army and demanding that the aircraft be diverted to Jose Marti Airport in Havana, Cuba. The note also stated that if the plane landed in Miami, passengers would be shot and the plane would be blown up. The note also demanded five (5) million dollars.
- The pilot complied with the defendant’s demands and landed the aircraft in Havana. Thereafter, three passengers separately identified the defendant as the individual who forced the aircraft to be diverted to Havana.
- Once the flight landed in Havana, the defendant was taken into custody by Cuban law enforcement. The defendant remained in Cuba until his return to the United States on November 6, 2013.
- The Court notes that the defendant was indicted by a federal grand jury for aircraft piracy, in violation of Title 49, United States Code, Section 1472(i) (1984).
- The Court finds that pursuant to Title 18, United States Code, Section 3142(e)(3)(C), there is a rebuttable presumption that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the defendant in Court as required, and the safety of the community.
- The Court further finds that the defendant faces a statutory mandatory minimum sentence of twenty (20) years’ imprisonment if convicted of the charged offense, that the defendant has remained outside the United States for approximately twenty nine (29) years, and that the defendant has a pending state charge for armed robbery out of Bergen County, New Jersey.
- The significant period of incarceration, the nature of the offense, the weight of the evidence against the defendant, the defendant’s criminal history, and the facts and circumstances of this case, counsel in favor of detention. Indeed, on this record, the Court finds that the defendant has not rebutted the presumption under Section 3142(c)(3).
Based on the above findings of fact, which are supported by clear and convincing evidence, this Court concludes that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably
assure the safety of any other person or the community. The Court further finds, by a preponderance of the evidence, that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably
assure the appearance of this defendant as required.
The Court hereby directs that:
a. The defendant be detained without bond;
b. The defendant be committed to the custody of the Attorney General for confinement in a corrections facility separate, to the extent practical, from persons awaiting or serving sentences or being held in custody pending appeal;
c. The defendant be afforded reasonable opportunity for private consultation with his counsel; and
d. On order of a court of the United States or on request of an attorney for the government, the person in charge of the corrections facility in which the defendant is confined, deliver the defendant to a United States Marshal for the purpose of appearance in connection with court proceedings.