Florida man gets 120 days in jail for landing gyrocopter at Capitol

Gyrocopter lands near U.S. Capitol; pilot arrested
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    Gyrocopter lands near U.S. Capitol; pilot arrested

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Gyrocopter lands near U.S. Capitol; pilot arrested 01:24

Story highlights

  • Douglas Hughes pleaded guilty to a felony charge of operating as an airman without an airman's certificate
  • He originally faced nine-and-a-half years in prison

Washington (CNN)A postal carrier who flew a gyrocopter onto the grounds of the U.S. Capitol last year to protest big money in politics was sentenced to 120 days in jail Thursday, the Department of Justice said.

Douglas Hughes pleaded guilty in November to a felony charge of operating as an airman without an airman's certificate, accepting a plea deal that included the forfeiture of his gyrocopter. He originally faced nine-and-a-half years in prison.
    "Douglas Hughes intentionally violated one of the most secure and restricted airspaces in the world, placing himself and countless others at risk," U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips said in a statement.
    Hughes told CNN Thursday he had no regrets and said he would keep pursuing campaign finance reform.
    "I'll serve my time and I won't give anybody any flack about that. The day I get back, I'll go back to getting money out of politics," Hughes said.
    The incident last April caused Congress to go into lockdown and stunned people both inside and out of the D.C. beltway.
    Hughes, who was carrying letters addressed to members of Congress, had made no secret of his intentions, telling a reporter from the Tampa Bay Times to follow him along as he tried to perform an act shocking enough to force Congress to address the growing influx of money in politics.
    Hughes took to the pages of The Washington Post after his flight, explaining his position on campaign finance and defending his actions.
    "No one was hurt, no property was damaged and the message was delivered," Hughes wrote. "I simply hope by putting my freedom on the line, others might realize how precious their freedom is and join those of us engaged in this fight to preserve and protect our government of, by and for the people."
    Hughes pointed to the Democracy Awakening protests with people from around the country rallying around the Capitol to protest the current campaign finance system. He said his flight a year prior resulted in more media attention than those protests because they were too civil to spark much interest from major media organizations.
    Once he serves his 120-day sentence, Hughes will undergo a year of supervision, during which the Justice Department said he will have to stay away from the Capitol and the White House.
    Hughes said he knew he would face consequences for his protest and sounded grateful just to be alive.
    "I didn't get shot down. Everything from here on out is better than I expected," Hughes said.