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A Florida mail carrier indicted for violating restricted airspace for flying a gyrocopter on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol appeared in court Thursday and said afterward that he did not regret the stunt, even as he faces more than nine years in prison.
"I'll never do anything like this again," Douglas Hughes told reporters outside a federal courthouse in Washington D.C. "But I would do it exactly the way I did."
Hughes, 61, of Ruskin, Florida, flew the low-flying craft from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to Washington on April 15, landing on the Capitol's West Lawn. He called the flight an act of civil disobedience to protest the role of big money in politics. He'd planned to deliver 535 letters on the topic — one for each voting member of Congress.
He had announced his intention to deliver letters to Congress members and had been interviewed by the Secret Service. But his stunt still took officials by surprise.
Hughes was charged this week with two felonies — flying without proper certification and violating aircraft registration requirements. He was also charged with violating national defense airspace and operating a vehicle falsely labeled as a postal carrier, both misdemeanors. The maximum punishment is nine and a half years in prison.
And yet Douglas Hughes told MSNBC earlier on Thursday that "it was worth it" in order to advance his cause.
In a morning interview over Skype with NBC's Peter Alexander, Hughes said his public defender was trying to negotiate a plea deal "where the penalty fits the crime."
"I never expected to walk away scot-free for what I did, but on the other hand, 9½ years I think is just a bit outrageous," said Hughes, whose movements are restricted by a electronic monitoring bracelet. "And if we can't work out a deal, then I'm satisfied we'll put it in front of a jury of 12 people."
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— Jon Schuppe