Florida Man Indicted on Federal Charges For Flying Gyrocopter to U.S. Capitol Grounds
Defendant Faces Up to 9 1/2 Years in Prison for Six Felony and Misdemeanor Offenses
WASHINGTON – Douglas Hughes, 61, of Ruskin, Fla., was indicted today by a federal grand jury on charges stemming from the April 15, 2015 incident in which he flew a gyrocopter into Washington, D.C., and landed on the West Lawn of the Capitol.
The indictment was announced by Acting U.S. Attorney Vincent H. Cohen, Jr., Kim C. Dine, Chief of the United States Capitol Police, and David C. Williams, Inspector General for the U.S. Postal Service.
Hughes was arrested immediately after landing the gyrocopter. The grand jury indicted him on a total of six charges. They include two felonies: one count each of operating as an airman without an airman’s certificate and violating registration requirements involving aircraft. In addition, he was indicted on four misdemeanor counts: three counts of violation of national defense airspace, and one of operating a vehicle falsely labeled as a postal carrier.
In addition, the indictment includes a forfeiture allegation seeking a judgment for the gyrocopter, which has been seized by law enforcement. Each of the felony charges carries a statutory maximum of three years in prison and potential financial penalties. Each of the misdemeanor charges of violations of national defense airspace carries a statutory maximum of one year in prison and potential fines, and the misdemeanor offense of operating a vehicle falsely labeled as postal carrier carries a statutory maximum of six months in prison and potential fines.
Hughes is to be arraigned on the charges on May 21, 2015, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
According to the government’s evidence, Hughes flew the gyrocopter into Washington, D.C. from Gettysburg, Pa., passing through three no-fly zones. An investigation determined that he does not have a pilot’s certificate or registration for the aircraft. The gyrocopter was privately owned by Hughes, but had the logo and emblem of the United States Postal Service without authorization. Hughes was employed by the U.S. Postal Service as a postal carrier in Florida, but he was on leave at the time of the incident, and had no official duties in the Washington, D.C. area.
Hughes has been free on personal recognizance since his initial court appearance in this matter on April 16, 2015. At that time, the Court ordered that he be placed on home detention in Florida. He is barred from returning to the District of Columbia except for court appearances and meetings with his attorney. Any time that he is in the District of Columbia, Hughes must stay away from the Capitol, White House and nearby areas. He also was barred from operating any aircraft while he is on release and ordered to surrender his passport.
Charges contained in an indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The case is being investigated by the United States Capitol Police and the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Postal Service. Assistance has been provided by the United States Park Police. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tejpal S. Chawla, of the National Security Section of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.