They had originally charged Potts with air piracy, which has a minimum mandatory sentence of 20 years.
On April 25, U.S. Attorney Wilfredo A. Ferrer filed the new charge - known as a "superseding information." It replaces the air piracy charge filed in 1985.
The superseding information reads:
The United States Attorney charges that:
On or about March 27, 1984, in Miami-Dade County, in the Southern District of Florida, and elsewhere, while aboard an aircraft within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States, the defendant
WILLIAM POTTS, JR.,
a/k/a "William Freeman,"
a/k/a "Lt. Spartacus,"
did unlawfully seize, confine, and hold for reward and otherwise the flight crew and passengers of Piedmont Airlines flight number 451 by threatening to blow up the flight for the purpose of diverting the flight from Miami, Florida, to Havana, Cuba, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1201(a)(3).I don't know what led to the new charge. Prosecutors may believe kidnapping is easier to prove than air piracy. They may be stepping up the pressure on Potts, threatening him with life in prison rather than 20 years.
Whatever the case, Potts has told me he doesn't believe he should have to do any more prison time.
He had hoped that the Cuban government would welcome him as a fellow comrade in 1984. Instead they threw him in jail, where he spent at least 13 1/2 years.
Potts will be told of the kidnapping charge during an arraignment hearing scheduled for 11 a.m. April 29 in the U.S. Attorney's Fort Lauderdale Division.
A change of plea hearing is set for 2:30 p.m. the same day. That hearing had been scheduled for May 2 but was moved to April 29.
Prosecutors had until 2 p.m. today to send any plea offers to the court.
According to the FBI:
Potts was indicted in the Southern District of Florida in 1985 after diverting a Piedmont Airlines passenger aircraft to Havana, Cuba, as the aircraft was approaching Miami International Airport. According to court documents, Potts threatened to blow up the airplane and shoot passengers if the plane landed in Miami. The pilot diverted the aircraft and landed in Havana, Cuba. After the plane landed in Havana, Cuban authorities boarded and escorted Potts off the plane. Potts remained in Cuba until his return to Miami on November 6, 2013.