A man who hijacked an airplane with 143 passengers at New York City's JFK airport 17 years ago and was later found not guilty of any crime by reason of insanity, says he is now ready to be the mayor of America's most populous city because he is "completely different."
Bronx resident Aaron Commey is the Libertarian candidate for New York City Mayor. City & State New York says and he wants voters to give him a chance despite his unfortunate past.
In the summer of 2000, when Commey was just 22, he hijacked a Boeing 757 bound for Las Vegas using a knife and a handgun.
"I heard this bustle and commotion behind me at the door and I heard a man's voice saying, 'Just secure the door. Secure the door now,"' Frank Clark, one of the passengers who escaped Commey's attack told CBS News in July 2000.
"Then he walked right through first class at a high rate of speed toward the cockpit. People in the aisle across from me, they said, 'He's got a gun,' that's when all hell broke loose," Clark said.
The case against Commey was not pursued because he was found to be suffering from delusional disorder and paranoid schizophrenia at the time.
Despite being found not guilty by reason of insanity in 2003, Commey languished in the federal prison system until January of 2015 when he was finally released.
He now boasts of overcoming his mental illness without the help of medication and when asked by City & State New York why voters should now give him a shot at leadership, he says, it's because he has changed.
"It's definitely a valid question ... 'Well, how can we trust you, when you're this guy who tried to hijack a plane?'" he said. "I am not the same person that I was. I was definitely severely mentally ill. And in addition to recovering from my mental illness without medication, I am a completely different person in terms of how I approach situations and I'm committed to nonviolence."
Commey said his time in prison helped him to become the person he is today. For years, while he was still incarcerated he said, government officials and judges refused to release him from prison despite doctors declaring him fully recovered.
"Experiencing my own personal injustice, seeing injustice happen to other guys, that's one of the things that had driven me to wanting to get involved to try to change the system," he told City & State New York.
"It showed me a side of government a lot of people think of in the abstract, but feeling it up close and personal made it all that more real to me," he noted. "And there was really only one party I saw that was tackling that aspect of government."
Commey has not done much campaigning yet. His effort to make a statement in the Nov. 7 election is currently funded by $2,300 of his own money and $495 in support from grassroots supporters.
Explaining what he thinks it takes to make a good mayor in a campaign video, Commey said he believes the right choice must believe in acting in the best interest of voters.
"I think it takes someone who is truly committed to putting the people first and fighting for everyday New Yorkers. That's why I'm running for mayor, because I am a regular New Yorker, who knows firsthand the concerns, struggles and hopes of regular New Yorkers," he said.
"I want to revamp our educational system so that our kids graduate high school with the skills, knowledge and confidence to be employers instead of struggling to find low-wage work in retail or fast food.
"I want to overhaul the criminal justice system so that we aren't needlessly punishing people and destroying our most vulnerable communities. I'm fighting against intrusive laws that make the police and public enemies of each other," he continued.
"I want to get rid of horrible policies like sin taxes so that we don't create more Eric Garners. As hardworking New Yorkers, we know all too well the daily struggle of trying to make ends meet and trying to provide the things our families need," he added.