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Copter Pilot Doug Hughes Charged With Violating Restricted Airspace

The most serious charge carries a penalty of three years.
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/ Source: NBC News

Douglas Hughes, the pilot who flew an aircraft onto the U.S. Capitol lawn, was charged Thursday with operating an unregistered aircraft and violating restricted airspace, federal authorities said Thursday.

The first charge carries up to three years in prison, the second charge up to one year.

Hughes was released on bond, placed on home detention and ordered back to court May 8. Among the conditions for his release are that he can't operate any flying vehicles and can't return to Washington except for court-related matters — the government even gave him a map showing him where he can't go even when he is in town.

Hughes, a mail carrier who wanted to protest money in politics, flew the aircraft, an open-cockpit contraption known as a gyro-copter, onto the West Lawn of the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon. He wore his U.S. Postal Service jacket in court Thursday.

Hughes was quickly arrested by Capitol police, but the stunt Wednesday raised questions about security at government installations. Neither the U.S. military, the Capitol police nor the Secret Service managed to stop him.

Hughes, 61, had told friends and The Tampa Bay Times about his plans, and he wrote about it on a website in a post dated September 2013. The Secret Service said that it visited him at his home a month later.



— Pete Williams and Deb Pettit