WASHINGTON, April 21 (UPI) -- The Florida man who landed his gyrocopter on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol building last year was sentenced Thursday in a federal court to four months in prison.
Doug Hughes, 62, a postal worker, who flew his gyrocopter from Pennsylvania into the restricted airspace over Washington, D.C. was sentenced to a total of four months in prison, a year's probation, and a $100 fine. He is also banned from the White House and the Capitol for one year.
U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly scolded Hughes before she passed sentence for his "arrogant attitude" towards public safety.
"[You had] tunnel vision by focusing on the news media and not on safety," Kollar-Kotelly told Hughes.
Hughes was indicted by a grand jury on the felony charges of operating as an airman without an airman's certificate, and violating registration requirements involving aircraft. He was also indicted on three misdemeanor counts of violating national defense airspace and one count of operating a vehicle falsely labeled as a postal carrier. Hughes pleaded not guilty on all but the first count.
Each of the felony charges carried a maximum of three years in prison and possible fines. The misdemeanors could have added another one and a half years to his sentence.
Hughes' attorneys asked that he be sentenced for time already served, because "Mr. Hughes should be considered a hero" for his "altruistic act that was done in order to advance the interest of the vast majority of people residing in the United States," and compared his acts to those of Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.
Federal prosecutors scoffed at the idea, saying Hughes "committed his crimes because he craved attention."
"Indeed," they said, "it may be a troubling sign of our age if some believe that dangerous violations of legitimate public safety laws for political theater and free media attention should constitute heroism."
Kollar-Kotelly told Hughes, "FAA laws are just in a post-9/11 world." She said, "[You were] violating air laws in a manner that has no connection to your political message."