Man who landed gyrocopter at U.S. Capitol pleads guilty

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 20, 2015 1:42 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Florida man who flew a gyrocopter onto the U.S. Capitol grounds to publicize campaign finance reform pleaded guilty on Friday to a reduced charge.

Douglas Hughes, 62, a mail carrier from Ruskin, Florida, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to one felony count of operating as an airman without an airman's certificate.

A date for Hughes's sentencing has not been set but his attorney, Mark Goldstone, asked Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly to give him probation. He faces a maximum penalty of three years in prison.

Hughes had rejected two plea deals. He had called his April 15 stunt an act of civil disobedience and contended that his case would bring attention to the need for campaign finance reform.

Hughes was arrested after piloting the gyrocopter from Pennsylvania and landing on the west lawn of the Capitol. He was carrying a letter for each of the 535 members of Congress.

Hughes was fired from the U.S. Postal Service after the flight, which was among the most high-profile in a series of security lapses in the U.S. capital.

Hughes had faced six charges, including violating aircraft registration requirements and breaching national defense airspace. Aircraft are banned from flying in the area of the Capitol and White House without permission.

A gyrocopter resembles a minimalist helicopter with an unpowered rotor and separate propeller.

The flight exposed security lapses and showed the need for improved information-sharing and air security technology, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee said in a report in August.

(This story corrects age in second paragraph, 62 instead of 61)

(Editing by Bill Trott)