Doug Hughes, the 61-year-old Florida postal worker who flew his gyrocopter onto the lawn of the U.S. Capitol building last month to protest money in politics, on Thursday pleaded "not guilty" to six federal charges, two of them felonies.
Hughes, who is a grandfather, faces up to nine-and-a-half years in prison for what he calls his "freedom flight." Since his initial arrest, his movements have been restricted and he wears an electronic monitoring bracelet.
The charges against him include violation of national defense air space and flying without necessary certification.
Speaking to the press immediately following his hearing, Hughes reportedly said, "I would never do anything like this again, but I would do it exactly the way I did."
Hughes has captured significant attention for his mid-April flight on his gyrocopter from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania bearing 535 letters for members of Congress. He has also attracted considerable praise, including from prominent consumer advocate Ralph Nader, who argued that his "desperate message" is worth paying attention to.
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"My flight was a call to action, to spotlight corruption in DC and more importantly, to present solutions to the institutional graft," Hughes told CODEPINK's Medea Benjamin in an interview published last week on Common Dreams. "As I had informed the authorities, I had no violent inclinations or intent. An ultralight aircraft like a gyrocopter poses no major physical threat."
The grandfather faces steep charged despite the fact that he publicly announced his planned flight well in advance, including to the Tampa Bay Times.
"I've got kids," he said. "I've got two adult children, and I’ve got an 11-year-old daughter. I want to hand them a real democracy, so that they have the power to control their destiny and their children’s destiny."