1. Florida Politics

Ruskin gyrocopter pilot says postal officials are telling him not to talk to media

Doug Hughes faces reporters at his Ruskin home early Sunday. He was arrested Wednesday in Washington, D.C., for landing on the lawn of the Capitol.
Doug Hughes faces reporters at his Ruskin home early Sunday. He was arrested Wednesday in Washington, D.C., for landing on the lawn of the Capitol.

TAMPA — The Ruskin mail carrier who last week flew a gyrocopter into restricted airspace over Washington, D.C., to make a political statement says he has been put on paid leave with the U.S. Postal Service with orders not to discuss his story with the media.

"I was informed by the acting postmaster — and he sounded like he was reading from a script — that I was on administrative leave pending an investigation," Hughes wrote in an email to the Tampa Bay Times. "I am NOT allowed on postal property without advance permission and I can only enter the building through the front if I do visit with permission. (This injunction always precedes a termination.) I asked about the nature of the administrative leave — it's with pay BUT I'm not allowed to talk to the media AT ALL."

It is another restriction that Hughes said he intends to violate. He said the move amounted to a "gag order" that he did not respect.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Postal Service said she could not discuss Hughes' employment status.

"I can confirm that he is a rural mail carrier," said Enola Rice, the USPS regional communications director for Central Florida. "We don't discuss the status of employees. All I can do is confirm that he is an employee."

Hughes, 61, is on house arrest with a GPS ankle monitor until a May 8 court hearing in Washington.

On Wednesday afternoon, he flew from Gettysburg, Pa., to the U.S. Capitol in a gyrocopter — a lightweight aircraft akin to a bicycle with helicopter blades. With him, he carried 535 letters about campaign finance reform he intended to deliver to members of Congress. He was arrested moments after he landed.

The flight exposed a hole in the U.S. government's ability to adequately protect the Capitol and other federal buildings. Authorities acknowledged radar can't track a vehicle flying that low and slow. The White House has promised a "careful look'' at the incident.

Hughes told the Times he conceived his plan to deliver letters calling for changes in campaign finance 21/2 years ago. That's when his son, John Joseph Hughes, 24, committed suicide by driving his car head-on into another man, killing them both.

Calling himself a mix of Paul Revere and P.T. Barnum, Hughes said he loathed the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, which said campaign contributions are a form of "political speech" and struck down contribution limits for corporations and unions.

Times staff writer Ben Montgomery contributed to this report.

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