RUSKIN, Fla. (AP) — The letter carrier who caused a full-scale security review in Washington when he violated national airspace by landing his gyrocopter on Capitol Hill expressed frustration Sunday that his message wasn't getting through.
Doug Hughes had hoped to raise awareness about the influence of big money in politics by deliberately breaking the law to deliver 535 letters, one for each member of Congress. Instead, the overwhelming focus of news coverage has been about the gaps he exposed in national security.
"We've got bigger problems in this country than worrying about whether the security around DC is ironclad," Hughes told The Associated Press. "We need to be worried about the piles of money that are going into Congress."
Hughes, 61, spoke as he returned to his home in Florida to await prosecution on charges of violating national airspace and operating an unregistered aircraft. He said his house arrest begins Monday, and he will wear an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet until a May 8 court hearing in Washington.
Hughes said people weren't scared when they saw his gyrocopter. He says they waved to each other as he flew in low and slow over the National Mall, over the reflecting pool and onto the Capitol's West lawn.
Hughes spent a night in jail after Capitol Police arrested him. The ultralight aircraft and its cargo — a U.S. Postal Service bin carrying the letters — were seized.
"The message was two pages long to Congress that they are going to have to face the issue, OK, of campaign-finance reform and honesty and government so that they work for the people," Hughes said.
Hughes' Russian-born wife, Alena, told the AP that her husband acted out of patriotism for the United States.
"I am very proud of my husband. He is a countryman," she said.
Asked Sunday if he too thinks he's a patriot or simply crazy, Hughes said "everyone gets to make up their own mind about me, that's what I'd say."
"But do you consider yourself a patriot?" a reporter asked.
"No, I'm a mailman," he said.