NPR logo Postman Who Gyrocoptered Onto Capitol Lawn Faces Two Felonies

Postman Who Gyrocoptered Onto Capitol Lawn Faces Two Felonies

A gyrocopter rests April 15 on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Doug Hughes, a 61-year-old postal worker from Ruskin, Fla., landed the lightweight helicopter on the Capitol lawn to promote campaign finance reform. He's scheduled to enter pleas to multiple charges Thursday. i

A gyrocopter rests April 15 on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Doug Hughes, a 61-year-old postal worker from Ruskin, Fla., landed the lightweight helicopter on the Capitol lawn to promote campaign finance reform. He's scheduled to enter pleas to multiple charges Thursday. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
A gyrocopter rests April 15 on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Doug Hughes, a 61-year-old postal worker from Ruskin, Fla., landed the lightweight helicopter on the Capitol lawn to promote campaign finance reform. He's scheduled to enter pleas to multiple charges Thursday.

A gyrocopter rests April 15 on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Doug Hughes, a 61-year-old postal worker from Ruskin, Fla., landed the lightweight helicopter on the Capitol lawn to promote campaign finance reform. He's scheduled to enter pleas to multiple charges Thursday.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Doug Hughes, the Florida postman who gyrocoptered through Washington's anti-terrorism warning system to land on the Capitol lawn, now faces two felonies, four misdemeanors and up to 9 1/2 years in prison for his efforts.

His mission was to deliver stamped letters — he is a postman — to the nation's 535 senators and representatives, telling them they must choose between the voters back home and the big donors who finance their political careers.

Hughes is due in federal district court in Washington on Thursday afternoon, when he'll be asked how he pleads on each charge.

His flight brought some attention to this year's flood of political money — exactly what Hughes intended with his dramatic gesture — and as he flew along the National Mall, people below cheerfully waved.

But at the Capitol, which had been targeted by the 9/11 hijackers, lawmakers and aides were angrier about his ability to slip under the radar.

Despite the shock about Hughes' sudden appearance just downhill from the Capitol, federal law treats violation of national defense airspace as a misdemeanor. The grand jury charged him three times, for flying through three zones. There's a fourth misdemeanor as well — operating a "vehicle falsely labeled as [a] postal carrier."

Doug Hughes flies his gyrocopter March 17 near the Wauchula Municipal Airport in Wauchula, Fla. i

Doug Hughes flies his gyrocopter March 17 near the Wauchula Municipal Airport in Wauchula, Fla. James Borchuk/TNS/Landov hide caption

toggle caption James Borchuk/TNS/Landov
Doug Hughes flies his gyrocopter March 17 near the Wauchula Municipal Airport in Wauchula, Fla.

Doug Hughes flies his gyrocopter March 17 near the Wauchula Municipal Airport in Wauchula, Fla.

James Borchuk/TNS/Landov

The two felony charges are flying without an airman's certification and flying an aircraft not registered with the Federal Aviation Administration.

After his visit to Capitol Hill, Hughes spent a night in jail. Since then he's been under house arrest at his home in Ruskin, Fla.

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