Lawyer: Man in gyrocopter flight from Gettysburg to Capitol to plead guilty

Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Douglas Hughes has said repeatedly in recent months that he objected to doing "significant hard jail time" for landing a gyrocopter outside the U.S. Capitol to call attention to what he considers the influence of big money on politics.

Hughes protested that no one got hurt in his "spectacular" act of civil disobedience last April 15, but prosecutors charged him with crimes that carried a potential of 9 ½ years in prison. On Thursday, his lawyer said in an email to The Associated Press that Hughes had agreed to plead guilty to a felony in connection with the case, a charge that carries a potential of three years in prison.

Attorney Mark Goldstone said in an email that Hughes is expected to plead guilty to operating a gyrocopter without a license, a felony, on Nov. 20 in federal court in Washington.

In the email, Goldstone said Hughes faces three years in prison and the government and Hughes' defense lawyers agreed that sentencing guidelines don't apply.

Hughes was arrested after flying the bare-bones aircraft from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to Washington. During the flight, he passed through some of America's most restricted airspace before landing on the West Lawn of the Capitol.

"Doug Hughes will continue to be a strong voice for campaign finance reform and getting excessive money out of politics and allowing all citizens-regardless of the size of their bank accounts a voice in our democracy," Goldstone said in the email Thursday.

He added: "Democracy itself is jeopardized when citizens lose the ability to speak to their government and Doug's dramatic act of aerial civil disobedience was a cry that our democracy is in peril unless ordinary citizens feel free to speak up and have their voices heard by their Government."

The tail section of Hughes' gyrocopter carried a Postal Service logo, and Hughes, who is from Ruskin, Florida, was carrying letters for each member of Congress. Hughes was a mailman at the time of his flight.

Hughes was not immediately reachable by phone Thursday night.

William Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, said in an e-mail late Thursday that the office does not comment on the possibility of pleas in its cases and would have no comment on the case.