WASHINGTON – A man who flew a gyrocopter through some of America’s most restricted airspace before landing outside the U.S. Capitol earlier this year will plead guilty to a felony in connection with the incident, his lawyer said Thursday.
Attorney Mark Goldstone said in an email that his client Douglas 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 to The Associated Press, Goldstone said Hughes faces three years in prison and the government and Hughes’ defence lawyers agreed that sentencing guidelines don’t apply.
Hughes was arrested April 15 after flying the bare-bones aircraft from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to Washington. He said his flight was an act of civil disobedience intended to call attention to the influence of big money in politics.
“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 an 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.
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Hughes said previously that he had rejected a deal that included several years in prison and that if prosecutors continued to insist on “significant hard jail time,” his case would go to trial. He was not immediately reachable by phone Thursday night.
Hughes said spending several years in prison doesn’t seem fair because nobody was hurt and there was no property damage during his flight.
Hughes was indicted on six charges that carried up to 9 and 1/2 years in prison.
William Miller, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, said in an email late Thursday that the office does not comment on the possibility of pleas in its cases and would have no comment in this case.