Doug Hughes was upset about a lack of progress in campaign finance reform. He wrote letters to members of Congress, urging them to take immediate action. Apparently believing too much time had already been wasted, Hughes decided to deliver the letters himself. He loaded two mail bins with his letters onto his gyrocopter and flew them directly to the U.S. Capitol. (Watch the video here.) The mere fact that he successfully landed on the Capitol grounds without being blasted out of the sky is truly astonishing. What may be even more incredible is what happened afterward.
Immediately upon landing, Hughes was liberated of his letters, gyroscope, and freedom. Capitol Police swarmed around the vehicle, making sure it held no further threats. Federal prosecutors swarmed around Hughes, trying to decide how to charge him. It goes without saying that he would be charged with Violation of National Defense Airspace. What was surprising was the charge of operating a Vehicle Falsely Labeled as a Postal Carrier.
It wasn’t enough that Hughes snuck past state-of-the-art security to land an aircraft in one of the most secure places on earth. He compounded his crime by putting the U.S. Postal Service‘s “sonic eagle” logo on the rudder of his gyrocopter.
Count 6 of the 4-page indictment charges that “….DOUGLAS HUGHES, also
known as Doug Hughes, knowingly and willfully operated and owned a vehicle and conveyance, and placed and attached words, letters, and characters on the vehicle and conveyance of like import to ‘United States Mail,’ to wit, the logo and emblem of the United States Postal Service, when the vehicle and conveyance was not used to carry United States Mail … in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1731.” The offense carries with it a maximum sentence of six months’ imprisonment.
Hughes became the first person charged with trying to pass off a gyrocopter as a postal vehicle. Unfortunately for us, we will have to wait for someone else to try it before we find out whether the charge would have stuck. Hughes pleaded guilty to the single count of operating as an airman without an airman’s certificate. In exchange for his plea, the other counts were dismissed. He was sentenced to 120 days of imprisonment and one year of probation.
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