Man Who Landed Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn Gets 4 Months in Jail

The former mail carrier says it was a protest of money in politics
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 21, 2016 6:57 PM CDT
Man Who Landed Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn Gets 4 Months in Jail
A bomb squad member checks a gyrocopter after Douglas Hughes landed it on the Capitol lawn last year.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

A Florida man who piloted a one-person gyrocopter through some of the most restricted US airspace and landed on the lawn of the Capitol last year, was sentenced Thursday to 120 days in jail, the AP reports. Douglas Hughes, 62, has said his April 15, 2015, flight in the bare-bones aircraft was a way to call attention to the influence of big money in politics. The former mail carrier was carrying letters for each member of Congress on the topic of campaign finance and the tail of his aircraft had a postal service logo. Hughes pleaded guilty in November to a felony of operating a gyrocopter without a license. Prosecutors had asked for 10 months in prison, arguing that his flight from Pennsylvania to the nation's capital put countless lives at risk.

Hughes' attorneys had said that he should be allowed to remain out of jail. In a statement to the court they underscored that no one was injured as a result of Hughes' flight. They called the stunt an "act of aerial civil disobedience" and a "freedom flight" and said it "was in the nation's proud tradition of nonviolent civil disobedience." "The attention his flight gained, Mr. Hughes hopes, will force the nation to finally confront the issue of campaign finance rather than continue to ignore the problem. For this reason, Mr. Hughes should be considered a hero for his conduct," his attorneys wrote. Hughes was sentenced in federal court in Washington by Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. (His 535 letters on campaign finance reform were never delivered to Congress.)

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