Doug Hughes, 61, wanted to make a statement about campaign finance reform. So on April 15, he decided to fly his gyrocopter onto the lawn of the U.S. Capitol and hand-deliver letters demanding "real reform" to every member of Congress.
Unfortunately for him, he did not make it that far. After landing without incident on the West Lawn, Hughes was immediately arrested by Capitol Police. A robot was deployed to make sure the copter did not contain any explosives.
On Wednesday, the Department of Justice announced that a grand jury indicted Hughes on six charges: two felonies and four misdemeanors. All told, Hughes faces up to nine and a half years in prison for his act of civil disobedience.
- Two felony counts of operating as an airman without an airman's certificate and violating registration requirements involving aircraft
- Three counts of violating national defense airspace
- One count of operating a vehicle falsely labeled as a postal carrier
That last charge carries a maximum six-month prison sentence along with potential fines. Hughes is a postal carrier in his hometown of Ruskin, Florida, but federal agents frowned upon him detailing his gyrocopter with the official U.S. Post Office insignia.
"According to the government's evidence, Hughes flew the gyrocopter into Washington, D.C. from Gettysburg, Pa., passing through three no-fly zones. An investigation determined that he does not have a pilot's certificate or registration for the aircraft," a DOJ statement read. "The gyrocopter was privately owned by Hughes, but had the logo and emblem of the United States Postal Service without authorization. Hughes was employed by the U.S. Postal Service as a postal carrier in Florida, but he was on leave at the time of the incident, and had no official duties in the Washington, D.C. area."
The Tampa Bay Times, which broke the story of Hughes' plan and received some flak in the process, alerted Capitol Police and the Secret Service about Hughes' plan 30 minutes before his fateful landing.
Hughes has been in home detention since the incident, and will be arraigned Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. According to the DOJ, Hughes is barred from returning to Washington, except for court appearances and meetings with his attorney.
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.
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