Monday, December 11, 2017
News Roundup

Gyrocopter pilot Doug Hughes indicted on six federal charges (w/video)

WASHINGTON — Doug Hughes, the Ruskin mail carrier who flew his gyrocopter into restricted airspace over Washington, D.C., last month to make a political statement, has been indicted by a federal grand jury.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said Wednesday that Hughes, 61, faces six charges connected to the high-profile April 15 incident in which he flew his gyrocopter through Washington and landed on the West Lawn of the Capitol.

He faces up to 9 ½ years in prison.

Nevertheless, he is confident that his actions have had the intended result: to raise awareness of the role of money in politics.

"I am more convinced than ever that I did the right thing," Hughes said in a Wednesday evening interview.

The charges 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.

If Hughes is convicted of either of the two felonies, he will be required to forfeit his gyrocopter to the federal government.

Hughes called his potential sentence "excessive" because of the nature of his action: an act of civil disobedience where no one was hurt, and no property was damaged.

"How is that worth 9 ½ years?" he said. "I think the prosecutor has an uphill battle."

Hughes will appear in federal court again this afternoon for his arraignment. He expects to see fellow supporters of his cause at the hearing.

Hughes said he is not certain what will happen at the arraignment. But he said he is open to the idea of a plea bargain, if it means no jail time. But he also is prepared for the possibility that his case could go in front of a jury.

In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times before his flight, Hughes said he wanted to protest the influence of money in politics, describing himself as a combination of circus showman P.T. Barnum and American Revolution patriot Paul Revere.

Upon landing, he was immediately arrested by Capitol Police. After an initial court appearance, he was released to his home in Ruskin, where he has remained on house detention since. He is on paid leave from his job as a U.S. postal worker.

Hughes said Wednesday he was not acting as a Postal Service representative when he landed on the Capitol lawn — though he was carrying letters to members of Congress, and his gyrocopter carried the Postal Service logo.

Although the Postal Service does not publicly support his action, "they probably should," Hughes said, adding that money in politics is at least partially to blame for the organization's financial troubles.

The gyrocopter incident was the subject of another hearing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, with members of the Committee on House Administration questioning the head of the U.S. Capitol Police. The discussion lacked the hostility of a previous hearing, but members wondered why there wasn't a more urgent response to an email a Tampa Bay Times reporter sent about Hughes' flight.

"Who knows what the intent of this guy is," said Rep. Rich Nugent, R-Spring Hill, adding that his staff was able to watch Hughes' Internet stream of his flight to the Capitol grounds — which the Capitol Police said they were unable to do.

Amid the debate, lawmakers have suggested that the laws under which Hughes faced charges should be updated with tougher penalties.

When Hughes was first charged in April, he faced fewer counts and a possible sentence of fewer than five years in prison.

Times staff writer Alex Leary contributed to this report.

 
Comments
Lions-Buccaneers Turning Point, Week 14: A coach's future hangs in the balance

Lions-Buccaneers Turning Point, Week 14: A coach's future hangs in the balance

TAMPA — The season started in August with “Hard Knocks,” packed bleachers at training camp and cheers for coach Dirk Koetter.It ended Sunday with a 24-21 loss to the Lions, a lot of empty seats and chants of “We want Gruden ba...
Updated: 1 hour ago

High school scoreboard for Dec. 11

Monday’s scoreboardGirls soccerDixie Hollins 4, Boca Ciega 0Palm Harbor U. 2, Countryside 2Osceola 7, Northeast 0Largo 1, Seminole 0Boys soccerIndian Rocks Chr. 3, Northside Chr. 1Palm Harbor U. 4, Countryside 1...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Winter meetings journal: Rays closer Alex Colome drawing interest

Winter meetings journal: Rays closer Alex Colome drawing interest

LAKE BUENA VISTA — The Rays made a small deal Monday in acquiring INF Joey Wendle from Oakland while continuing to discuss bigger ones that seem likely to eventually lead to the trade of closer Alex Colome and then others.The Rockies and Mets joined ...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Lottery resultsNumbers drawn after 9 p.m. are no longer available by our deadlines. For results, go to tampabay.com/lottery.Pick 2, 3, 4, 5Mon., Dec. 11, midday:32 251 1266e_SRit91903Mon., Dec. 11, evening:52 400 7181e_SRit23090Fantasy 5Mon., Dec. 11...
Updated: 3 hours ago
HomeTeam Hot Shot winners: Emily Joseph and Devin Cosser

HomeTeam Hot Shot winners: Emily Joseph and Devin Cosser

HomeTeam Hot ShotsEmily Joseph, NortheastJoseph, a senior, has been a deadly shooter since her sophomore year. But this season she has added to her game. "She’s gotten physically stronger and has gained confidence," coach Will White said. "She used t...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Florida A&M names Willie Simmons football coach

Florida A&M names Willie Simmons football coach

TALLAHASSEE — Willie Simmons was named football coach at Florida A&M on Monday. The Tallahassee native will be introduced today. Simmons, 37, has been the coach at Prairie View A&M the past three seasons (21-11, including 6-5 this season). He played ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Yankees’ acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton may hasten Rays’ dismantling

Yankees’ acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton may hasten Rays’ dismantling

LAKE BUENA VISTA — The latest obstacle keeping the Rays from contending in the American League East loomed even larger Monday afternoon in pinstripes.The Yankees’ formal introduction of Giancarlo Stanton also could be an accelerant to the departure o...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Residents wonder what’s next after fire destroys Tampa apartments (with video)

Residents wonder what’s next after fire destroys Tampa apartments (with video)

TAMPA — When her apartment complex caught fire Monday afternoon, Peaches McIntyre grabbed her four children and baby stroller and ran outside.Hours later, she looked at the smoldering building with her 5-year-old autistic son, Choice Underwood, huggi...
Updated: 4 hours ago
3 Trump accusers call for congressional inquiry; Pentagon to allow transgender people to enlist; 18 win anti-Trump climate grants; more in U.S., world news

3 Trump accusers call for congressional inquiry; Pentagon to allow transgender people to enlist; 18 win anti-Trump climate grants; more in U.S., world news

United States3 Trump accusers speak, hoping to be heard nowThree women who have previously accused President Donald Trump of sexual harassment shared their stories Monday on NBC’s Megyn Kelly Today. Jessica Leeds, Samantha Holvey and Rachel Crooks s...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Judge denies former Clearwater fire chief’s motion for a new trial

Judge denies former Clearwater fire chief’s motion for a new trial

A Pinellas circuit judge denied a bid for a new trial in the case of Jamie Geer, the former Clearwater fire chief serving a life sentence for sexually abusing a girl throughout her childhood.Geer, now 63, was in court in October seeking the new trial...
Updated: 4 hours ago