Gyrocopter pilot pleads guilty
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The Florida man who piloted a small aircraft that landed on the West Lawn of the Capitol in April has pleaded guilty to a charge of operating as an airman without an airman's certificate. 

Douglas Hughes, 62, entered his guilty plea in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. The felony charge carries a maximum of three years in prison and a fine up to $250,000. As part of the plea deal, prosecutors have agreed not to ask for more than 10 months.


The mail carrier had called his stunt on April 15 an act of civil disobedience in an effort to draw attention to campaign finance reform. 

As part of his plea agreement, Hughes will forfeit the gyrocopter, which authorities seized immediately after Hughes's landing took most of the nation's capital by surprise.

U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips said Hughes "put himself and countless other in dangers" when he flew the small rotorcraft into the nation's capital and said that the felony charge will hopefully discourage others from attempting similar feats in the future. 

"With the defendant pleading guilty to the lead charge of his indictment, a felony, this prosecution will hopefully deter others from violating the highly restricted airspace surrounding Washington, D.C.," Phillips said in a statement. 

Hughes was indicted by a federal grand jury in May on six charges, including flying in restricted airspace, but the other charges were dropped after he agreed to plead guilty to the lead charge. 

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly scheduled his sentencing for April 13.