Florida man who landed gyrocopter at US Capitol due in court on 6 charges

A grand jury has indicted Douglas Hughes on six charges, according to the US Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia.

James Borchuck/The Tampa Bay Times/AP
Doug Hughes reads some of the letters of support that he has received since he landed his gyrocopter on the west lawn of the US Capital last month. On May 19, Hughes will drive up to Washington DC for his first preliminary hearing later in the week.

A Florida man who flew a gyrocopter through some of America's most restricted airspace before landing at the U.S. Capitol is due back in court Thursday.

A grand jury has indicted Douglas Hughes on six charges, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia. He now faces charges that carry up to 9½ years in prison. He's scheduled to appear in federal court in Washington.

Hughes, who took off from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, was arrested April 15 after he landed on the Capitol's West Lawn in his bare-bones aircraft. Hughes has said he wanted to call attention to the influence of big money in politics.

Hughes has been on home detention and can't return to Washington except for court appearances and meetings with his attorney.

"We are looking at a case where there was no injury and no property damage, and the requirements as far as what the prosecution is asking for include years of jail time. The penalties that they are demanding are not consistent with the damage," Hughes said in a phone interview Wednesday after the grand jury indictment became public.

The charges Hughes now faces include two felonies: operating as an airman without an airman's certificate and violating aircraft registration requirements. Those charges carry a maximum of three years in prison. He is also facing three misdemeanor offences of violating national defense airspace, each carrying a maximum of one year in prison.

Hughes, 61, who had been employed as a postal carrier and lives in Ruskin, Florida, also faces a misdemeanor charge of operating a vehicle falsely labeled as postal carrier. The tail section of Hughes' gyrocopter carried a Postal Service logo. That charge carries a statutory maximum of six months in prison.

The charges Hughes faces also carry potential fines. The indictment says that if he is convicted of one or both of the felonies, prosecutors will ask that a judge order him to forfeit the gyrocopter.

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