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Monday, Sep 24, 2018
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Ruskin gyrocopter pilot due in court this week

RUSKIN — Doug Hughes, the postal carrier who flew a gyrocopter onto the U.S. Capitol lawn last month in an attempt to draw attention to campaign finance reform, is expected to be arraigned in Washington D.C. this week.

He is charged with violating aircraft registration requirements, a felony, and with violating national defense airspace, a misdemeanor. The charges could mean fines and jail time. Hughes has been on home detention since he was released on bail after the April 15 stunt.

In an opinion piece published Friday in The Washington Post, Hughes lamented that his flying days could be over. He said he will drive to Washington for the arraignment.

Hughes was unavailable for comment Sunday.

However, the publicity, including criticism for his actions, potential fines and jail time, and possible loss of a hobby, would be worth it, Hughes wrote, if “Americans will understand why I took the risk to deliver them a message: We the people must pay attention to democracy.”

Hughes had criticized the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that allows corporations and other groups to spend unlimited and untraceable amounts of money in electoral politics.

Hughes’ gyrocopter trick was an attempt to deliver 535 letters of protest to members of Congress. He told The Tampa Tribune that the office of the U.S. Post Office Inspector General Postmaster said the letters would be properly delivered.

In The Washington Post piece, Hughes, 61, cited a Global Strategy Group poll that indicated that “91 percent of Americans see the corrosive influence of money in our political system as a problem that demands attention.”

“And in a Gallup tracking poll, voters identified frustration with government as their No. 1 concern in recent months, ahead of the economy and jobs,” he wrote.

“Sixteen states and 650 cities have called on Congress to propose a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United,” he wrote. “Three other states have called for an unprecedented Article V constitutional convention.”

Hughes wrote that he is ready to accept responsibility for the gyrocopter stunt.

“Everyone is entitled to an opinion about my flight over the Mall last month, but I did not commit this peaceful protest thoughtlessly,” he wrote. “The most important requirements were met: No one was hurt, no property was damaged and the message was delivered. It was a message Americans agree with.”

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