Man who landed gyrocopter at US Capitol pleads guilty

21 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Gyrocopter Pilot Pleads Responsible, Hopes to Return to DC.

The Florida man who flew a gyrocopter onto the Capitol grounds plead guilty to a felony Friday, and is hoping to avoid jail time and return to the District of Columbia for a campaign finance overhaul rally before his sentencing.

He audaciously flew his single-seater aircraft through one of the country’s most restricted airspaces, defiantly landed it on the US Capitol’s West Lawn only to be greeted by a massive law enforcement response, and seemingly has no regrets about it now.Douglas Hughes, 62, was charged with the felony this spring after flying his gyrocopter through restricted airspace above Washington and forcing a large police response when he landed close to the Capitol building. “Douglas Hughes put himself and countless others in danger when he flew his gyrocopter without a license into our country’s national defense airspace, and through the three no-fly zones protecting the nation’s capital,” said U.S. The felony carries a potential for up to three years in prison, but prosecutors said they would not request more than 10 months if he pleaded guilty, according to Mr. He meant to deliver individual letters to all senators and House members, urging them to clamp down on superPACs, “dark money” groups and millionaire donors. Before flying into Washington, the former mail carrier wrote on his website that he wanted to use the flight to bring attention to the state of campaign-finance laws and corruption.

I’m in this to get the money out of politics,” Hughes told reporters after the hearing. “I’m going to do a better job of getting money out of politics and restoring representative democracy on the outside rather than being in jail. The thing he didn’t intend to demonstrate was that someone could fly a slow little aircraft beneath Washington’s post-9/11 air defenses without getting shot down. And this is the best way for me to return.” As part of the plea deal, Hughes agreed to a statement of facts about his gyrocopter flight, acknowledging that he knowingly and willingly violated Federal Aviation Administration rules and breached restricted airspace. Appearing in Federal District Court in Washington, Hughes asked Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly if his sentencing date could be arranged so he could participate in an upcoming protest called Democracy Spring.

The demonstration of civil disobedience is meant to push Congress into legislating new limits on the unregulated money that flows from wealthy donors to superPACs and 501c4 “social welfare” organizations. Goldstone said the incident “exposed major flaws” in Washington’s air defense system, and it came after a series of embarrassing security lapses for the Secret Service. Indeed, an August report by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee showed the incident brought to light significant gaps in capitol security and the need for better air security technology and information-sharing. Federal Election Commission, in which the court decided campaign contributions were a form of “political speech” and struck down limits on how much corporations and unions could give to political contenders.

Hughes likes to point out that nearly half the retiring members of Congress from 1998 to 2004 got jobs as lobbyists earning some 14 times their congressional salaries. Hughes has said he lost his job after the incident and that after the criminal case is resolved he intends to work as an activist for campaign finance reform.

Kai Newkirk of the group “99 Rise” told reporters that the sit-in would be “one of the largest civil disobedience acts of our generation.” Hughes said that, in less than three days since the event’s website launched, 600 people have signed up to participate. Newkirk said that the court should not be concerned about any disruptions during Hughes’ sentencing. “We’re going to be focused on the Capitol and Congress,” he said.

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