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Friday, June 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Man Who Landed Copter at Capitol Cops Plea

(CN) - The Florida man who piloted a gyrocopter through three restricted airspaces to land on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol pleaded guilty Friday to a felony charge of operating his craft without a license.

Douglas Hughes, of Ruskin, Fla., flew from Gettysburg, Pa. to Washington D.C. on April 15, 2015. After he landed on the west lawn of the capital, he said he undertook the journey in his one-man flying machine to call attention to the influence of big money in politics.

According to prosecutors, Hughes has never held a pilot's license and he did not license his aircraft with the Federal Aviation Administration. Hughes also did not file a flight plan with the FAA or any other governmental agency, and he did not seek to obtain any official authorization before or during his flight.

This federally restricted airspaces he paces through included, among other places, the National Mall, the White House, and the U.S. Capitol area.

Hughes attorney, Mark Goldstone, said the flight exposed "major flaws" in the capital air defense system.

But federal prosecutors were less than appreciative. Initially Hughes, a former postal worker who carried with him letters for every member of Congress, faced six felony and misdemeanor charges that could have meant a sentence of up to 9 1/2 years in prison.

The charge he ultimately did plead guilty to carries a potential sentence of up to three years, but prosecutors said they intend to ask for no more than 10 months. He also faces a fine of up to $250,000.

As part of his plea agreement, Hughes has agreed to the forfeiture of his gyrocopter, which was seized on the day of the incident.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly scheduled Hughes to be sentenced on April 13, 2016.

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