Potts had asked the court for leniency, saying he already spent 13 1/2 years in prison in Cuba for the hijacking. Prosecutors requested 20 years, but recommended Potts be allowed to go free in as little as seven years given his Cuba jail time.
The Miami Herald reported that U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore heard "an emotional plea for mercy from Potts" and then "sided with the prosecution’s recommended sentence, which would allow Potts to seek parole in about seven years."
Potts left Cuba and returned to Florida to face justice in November. He said he wanted to spend time with two daughters now living in Georgia. The Herald quoted him as telling the judge, nicknamed "Maximum Mike":
If you just give me a chance, judge, I’ll do you proud. I’m begging you, please, let me go back to my children.Potts' wife, Aime Quesada, is in Cuba. Reacting to the judge's sentence, she told Along the Malecón:
What an injustice! I don't this situation won't be easy for him.The Herald reported:
He returned knowing what could happen only because he wanted to be with his daughters, to be able to watch them grow up, educate them and now he's not even going to be able to do that.
Nevertheless, he has a strong spirit and I think if he has good conduct he will get out of there (jail), but it won't be easy.
In effect, Potts would be given credit for the 13 years he had already served in a Cuban prison, which was described as a “hell-hole” by his defense attorney. But under U.S. law, the judge could not legally give the 57-year-old American citizen that credit because Potts had served that time for being convicted of the hijacking offense in Cuba.Also on Thursday, Moore ruled that undisclosed classified information that prosecutors had filed in the case could remain sealed. He wrote:
The disclosure of the Classified Materials at this time would cause serious damage to the national security of the Untied States.