Gyrocopter pilot indicted on six charges
© Tampa Bay Times

The Florida postal worker who flew his gyrocopter under the radar into Washington and onto the West Lawn of the Capitol earlier this year faces nearly 10 years in prison after being indicted by a federal grand jury on Wednesday.

Doug Hughes, 61, was indicted in U.S. District Court in D.C. on two felony counts of flying without a pilot's certificate and lacking registration for his small aircraft, each carrying up to three years in prison.

He was also indicted on four misdemeanor counts, including flying in restricted airspace, that carry a total of three and a half years in prison as well as potential fines. Hughes is scheduled to appear in court Thursday afternoon.

If convicted on either felony count, Hughes would be forced to turn over his gyrocopter and any property involved in the stunt to the United States government, according to his indictment.

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Hughes landed his small, low-flying aircraft on the lawn of the Capitol on April 15 and was promptly arrested. Authorities have said that he flew under the radar after taking off from Gettysburg, Pa.

Hughes carried 535 letters — one for each member of Congress — protesting the influence of money in politics, but the incident mostly raised questions about the security of airspace around the nation's capital.

Among the misdemeanor counts Hughes faces is placing the logo of the United States Postal Service, his employer, on his gyrocopter "when the vehicle and conveyance was not used to carry United States Mail."

Hughes owned the aircraft, and was on leave from work during the incident, officials said.

His indictment was announced by acting U.S. Attorney Vincent Cohen Jr., U.S. Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine and U.S. Postal Service Inspector General David Williams.

Hughes was relegated to home detention in Ruskin, south of Tampa, after an initial court hearing last month.

He is barred from visiting D.C. apart from court hearings and meetings with his attorney, and when he is in the city must stay away from the Capitol, the White House and other nearby areas, according to officials.

He was ordered to surrender his passport and prohibited from operating any aircraft in the interim, arriving in D.C. this week by car, USA Today reported.

Ahead of his trip to D.C. this week, Hughes acknowledged that his “flying days are over, perhaps forever."

"Accepting responsibility for my actions means I accept their consequences, which I always took seriously," Hughes wrote in a Washington Post op-ed, noting that no one was injured nor any property damaged during his stunt.

"As my freedom rests in the court’s hands, my hope is that Americans will understand why I took the risk to deliver them a message: We the people must pay attention to democracy," Hughes added.

— Updated at 5:55 p.m.