Gyrocopter pilot appears in court, released from custody

The Florida mailman who landed his gyrocopter on the Capitol lawn walked out of court Thursday afternoon after appearing before a federal judge.

Doug Hughes, 61, has been charged with operating an unregistered aircraft and violating national airspace. The crimes carry penalties of up to four years in federal prison and fines.

FOX 5's Paul Wagner reports that Hughes was released from custody on his own recognizance. He will be allowed to return to his home in Florida, where he will be placed on home detention and must stay away from any aircraft. Hughes was also ordered to stay away from D.C. unless he has a court date or needs to meet with his attorney.

In court Thursday afternoon, Hughes wore the same postal worker's jacket that he had on at the time of his arrest. He barely spoke with the exception of saying his name and asking whether he would be able to work once he was released.

When Hughes left the courthouse, he remained quiet in front of cameras and the media.

In the court charging document, Hughes admitted that he did not have a license to fly the aircraft and that it was not registered with the FAA.

On Wednesday, Hughes flew through restricted airspace to land the small aircraft onto the Capitol's West Lawn. The married father of four wanted to draw attention to campaign finance corruption, according to a statement on his website, The Democracy Club. He planned to deliver letters to all 535 members of Congress.

Hughes told the Tampa Bay Times about his stunt prior to carrying it out. A friend of Hughes said that he alerted the U.S. Secret Service about the plan because he feared law enforcement would shoot down the gyrocopter.

It has been widely reported that Hughes was interviewed by the U.S. Secret Service over a year ago after his plans were made known to authorities. But the court document says when the Secret Service interviewed him, Hughes denied having a gyrocopter and denied that he had plans to fly to the Capitol.

Hughes is due back in court for a preliminary hearing on May 8.
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