POLITICS

Man Who Flew Gyrocopter On Capitol Grounds Rejects Plea Deal

06/22/2015 05:09 pm ET | Updated Jun 22, 2016

By John Clarke

WASHINGTON, June 22 (Reuters) - A Florida man who flew a gyrocopter onto the U.S. Capitol grounds rejected a plea deal on Monday that would likely involve jail time, prosecutors said.

Douglas Hughes, a 61-year-old mail carrier from Ruskin, Florida, appeared in federal court where he turned down a plea deal, according to a spokesman for Assistant U.S. Attorney Tejpal Chawla.

Hughes told reporters outside the courthouse that he would not accept a plea deal that would involve several years of prison time, and called his illegal flight a "pure act of civil disobedience," according to the Washington Post.

His April 15 stunt was aimed at drawing attention to the need for campaign finance reform.

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

The flight of the small, unauthorized aircraft was among the most high-profile of recent security lapses in the U.S. capital.

Hughes faces six charges, including violating the registration requirements for an aircraft and national defense airspace. He pleaded not guilty in May to charges of lacking a pilot's certificate or registration for the craft.

If convicted of all charges, he could be sentenced to up to 9-1/2 years in prison. Aircraft are banned from flying in the area of the Capitol and White House without permission.

A gyrocopter resembles a helicopter, but has an unpowered rotor and separate propeller.

Plea negotiations are ongoing, the spokesman said. The next hearing is scheduled for July 22. (Editing by Ian Simpson and Eric Walsh)

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