“New York, New York – If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.”
Perhaps no New York City resident is testing that line more than mayoral candidate Aaron Commey, whose history includes a charge of attempting to hijack a commercial airline from John F. Kennedy International Airport when he was 22.
Commey, who is running as a Libertarian, allegedly forced his way into the cockpit of a Boeing 757 carrying 150 passengers and crew in 2000 and, armed with a gun, demanded that the Las Vegas-bound plane fly to Argentina. He was convinced an evil force was there, and he was determined to terminate it.
The incident ended many hours later with no injuries reported. There was jail for Commey, who was hit with five criminal charges. He was acquitted in 2003 on insanity grounds, but had to stay at a prison medical institution until 2015.
In 2000, the pilot of that airplane, Anthony Koncel, told the New York Times how he and his copilot, Sean Walkerley, were held captive by Commey, who held a 10-mm. semiautomatic pistol to Koncel's head.
Koncel described listening to Commey tell police negotiators over the phone that the U.S. government was cloning people. But after several hours of negotiations, he surrendered.
Commey swears he’s a new man and is all about peace. His campaign website describes him as "a regular New Yorker fighting for regular New Yorkers."
He says that all the years he was forced to remain institutionalized after being acquitted have inspired him to fight injustice.
“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 CityandStateNewYork.com
Published reports say he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia at the time of the hijacking, but Commey says he is fine now.
Commey grants that his unique résumé item may give some voters pause.
“I’m not the same person that I was,” he said. “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.”
"I am a completely different person in terms of how I approach situations and I'm committed to nonviolence."
He marvels over the fact that his unusual more-than-15-minutes of fame was not more of an attention-grabber until recently.
I was shocked, because I expected this to be the first thing out the gate and like nobody said anything,” he said to CityandStateNewYork. “I’m like, wow, OK, I’ll tell the story when the opportunity arises, but I really thought people were going to have much more of a reaction to it.”
Incumbent New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is the frontrunner in the election. His main challenger is New York Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican. Former New York police detective Richard 'Bo' Dietl is running as an Independent.