Gyrocopter Pilot Faces |9 1/2 Years in Prison

     WASHINGTON, D.C. (CN)- A Florida man faces up to nine and a half years in prison for landing his gyrocopter on the West Lawn of the Capitol last month, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Wednesday.
     Douglas Hughes, 61, of Ruskin, Fla., was indicted by a federal grand jury on six charges related to his April 15 flight from Gettysburg, Pa., to Washington, D.C.
     The indictment includes felony charges of operating as an airman without an airman’s certificate and flying without proper registration for his aircraft, along with three misdemeanor counts of violating national defense airspace, and one misdemeanor count of operating a vehicle falsely labeled as a postal carrier.
     The charges were announced in a press release by Acting U.S. Attorney Vincent H. Cohen Jr., Chief of Capitol Police Kim C. Dine, and Inspector General for the U.S. Postal Service David C. Williams.
     Hughes’ unauthorized landing put the Capitol on lockdown for several hours after the incident, and he was immediately arrested.
     Federal prosecutors say Hughes’ flight path took him through three no-fly zones.
     The gyrocopter he flew to the nation’s capital was emblazoned with the U.S. Postal Service logo and emblem, even though it is privately owned by Hughes.
     Hughes, a postal worker, was on leave when he made his flight and had no official duties in D.C. The indictment seeks forfeiture of the gyrocopter, which has been seized by law enforcement.
     Each of the felony counts against Hughes carry a maximum sentence of three years in prison, along with fines.
     The misdemeanor air space violations carry up to one year each in prison, and the violation for falsely labeling the gyrocopter a postal service vehicles carries a sentence of up to six months in prison. Each of the misdemeanors also carry potential fines.
     Hughes has been confined to home detention in Florida since his initial court appearance on April 16, and is his barred from returning to the District of Columbia except for court appearances and meetings with his attorney.
     He is also not allowed to operate an aircraft, and he had to surrender his passport.
     Hughes is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges later today in the D.C. Federal Court.
     Neither Hughes nor his attorney immediately responded to a request for comment.

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