Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Ex-hijacker's court records vanish (updated)

Screenshot showing no record for Potts' case by name.
The electronic case file for ex-hijacker William Potts has suddenly vanished. I searched for the latest records in Pacer, also known as Public Access to Court Electronic Records, and found nothing today.
Potts had hearings scheduled today, so I wanted to see if any records had been filed in his case.
April 30 update: I found the records... All is well in the land of Pacer.

On April 29, the Associated Press reported:
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A last-minute disagreement delayed a planned guilty plea Tuesday by an American who returned from Cuba decades after hijacking a jetliner to the communist island.

The attorney for William Potts, 57, objected to language in a proposed plea deal concerning the 13 years Potts spent in a Cuban prison for the crime. U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenbaum set another hearing for Thursday after prosecutor Maria Medetis said she needed senior-level Justice Department authorization to make any changes.

Prosecutors have opted to charge Potts with kidnapping rather than the previous count of air piracy, which carried a mandatory 20-year prison sentence. The new charge would give Rosenbaum flexibility to give Potts credit for some or all of his Cuban prison years toward his U.S. sentence. He could still get life, and Rosenbaum is under no obligation to consider the Cuban years.

Potts' attorney David Berube said a plea agreement included language forbidding him to comment on Potts' time in Cuban prison, which he said would undercut their goal of obtaining a relatively lenient sentence.

"Mr. Potts knows he needs to be punished but we need to take that into consideration," Berube said of his years behind bars in Cuba. "We don't want to go to trial. We want to resolve this."

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