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Wife calls gyrocopter pilot a patriot, but says he broke the law (+video)

Alena Hughes said she had been worried, but was proud of her husband Doug Hughes, a postal worker charged with operating an unregistered aircraft and violating national airspace after landing his gyrocopter on the U.S. Capitol lawn.

A Florida postal worker who piloted a gyrocopter onto the U.S. Capitol lawn to call attention to his belief that campaign finance laws are too weak is a patriot, his wife said in a brief interview Friday.

Doug Hughes was charged with operating an unregistered aircraft and violating national airspace after landing his aircraft near Congress on Wednesday. He was released from jail and is expected back in Florida, where he must check in weekly with authorities pending his prosecution.

"I am very proud of my husband. He is a countryman," Alena Hughes told The Associated Press in a brief telephone interview. Asked to elaborate, she said he was a "patriot."

Earlier Friday, Alena Hughes told WFLA News Channel 8 that "from the public point of view" her husband's actions were "very brave."

But she added that she almost felt betrayed, because if something had happened to her husband it would have caused problems for their family. They have a 12-year-old daughter and Hughes has adult children from a previous marriage.

"Law is law," she said. "And he broke the law."

She said she couldn't sleep for two nights and was worried about her husband.

"I am his wife and I will support him no matter what," she said.

Alena Hughes is from Belarus. She and Hughes met online. They had a few dates in Moscow and St. Petersburg in Russia before she moved to the U.S. in 2002 and they got married. The couple celebrated their 13th anniversary last weekend.

She told the station that her husband bought the gyrocopter about two years ago and she wasn't very happy about the purchase, because she didn't think it was a good way to spend the family's money. She said he kept the aircraft at an airport in Wauchula airport.

Alena Hughes said her husband had his own lawyer in Washington and she hired one near Tampa to represent her. Attorney Paul Carr said that Alena Hughes was shocked and in tears when they talked about the situation.

"After discussing the situation with her, I didn't see any criminal intent," Carr said. "In fact, there's a lot of people that would like to approach Congress."

Associated Press reporter Joshua Replogle in Miami contributed to this report.

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