June 22, 2015
WASHINGTON (CBSMiami/AP) – The Florida man who flew a gyrocopter onto the lawn of the U.S. Capitol said Monday that he’s rejected a plea offer in a case that would have involved several years in prison.
Douglas Hughes is scheduled to appear later Monday in federal court in Washington for a status hearing in the case. He said, during a brief telephone interview ahead of the hearing, that he rejected an offer that included significant jail time because it didn’t seem just for an act of civil disobedience in which no one got hurt. Hughes has said his April 15 flight in the bare-bones aircraft was intended to call attention to the influence of big money in politics. Hughes says it’s now more likely that his case will go to trial.
At a hearing in April, Hughes pleaded not guilty to the six charges he faces and said he was open to the possibility of a plea deal. The charges he faces carry up to 9 ½ years in prison if he is convicted. Those include two felonies: operating as an airman without an airman’s certificate and violating aircraft registration requirements. Those charges carry a maximum of three years in prison. He also faces three misdemeanor offenses of violating national defense airspace, each carrying a maximum of one year in prison.
Hughes, who had been employed by the U.S. Postal Service and lives in Ruskin, Florida, also faces a misdemeanor charge of operating a vehicle falsely labeled as a postal carrier, a charge that carries a statutory maximum of six months in prison. The tail section of Hughes’ gyrocopter carried a Postal Service logo, and Hughes was carrying letters for each member of Congress.