Man Who Flew Gyrocopter On Capitol Grounds Indicted, Faces Over 9 Years In Prison

05/20/2015 04:37 pm ET | Updated May 20, 2015
Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

WASHINGTON, May 20 (Reuters) - The Florida man who flew a gyrocopter onto the grounds of the U.S. Capitol in April faces up to 9-1/2 years in prison after being indicted by a federal grand jury on Wednesday.

Douglas Hughes, a 61-year-old mail carrier from Ruskin, Florida, was indicted on six charges, including violation of the registration requirements involving an aircraft and violation of national defense airspace, the U.S. Justice Department said.

The April 15 flight by Hughes, who said he was trying to draw attention to the need for campaign finance reform, was maybe the most high-profile of several recent security lapses in the heart of the nation's capital.

Hughes was arrested after piloting the small, unauthorized aircraft from Pennsylvania and landing on the west lawn of the Capitol as police and tourists looked on.

"An investigation determined that he does not have a pilot's certificate or registration for the aircraft," the Justice Department said in a statement. "The gyrocopter was privately owned by Hughes, but had the logo and emblem of the United States Postal Service without authorization."

The indictment includes a forfeiture allegation seeking a judgment for his gyrocopter, which has been seized by law enforcement, the Justice Department said.

Hughes, who was on leave from the Postal Service at the time of the incident, has been free on personal recognizance since an initial court appearance on April 16.

He is barred from returning to the District of Columbia except for court appearances and meetings with his attorney, the Justice Department said. He is also prohibited from operating any aircraft, and has been ordered to surrender his passport.

Hughes is due to be arraigned on the charges on Thursday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

If convicted of all the charges, he could be sentenced to up to 9-1/2 years in prison. (Reporting by Julia Edwards; Additional reporting by Daniel Wallis in Denver; Editing by Emily Stephenson and Jonathan Oatis)

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