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Gyrocopter Pilot Douglas Hughes: 'I'm Proud of What I Did'

Hughes plans to plead guilty to one felony charge. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Douglas Hughes said Friday he plans to plead guilty to one felony charge related to his gyrocopter flight to the Capitol in April — but he is not ashamed.  

The Florida man flew from Pennsylvania to the Capitol on April 15, to deliver letters to Congress pushing for a campaign finance overhaul. He was immediately arrested for breaching restricted airspace and later indicted on two felony and four misdemeanor charges. After several months of negotiations, Hughes is poised to accept a plea deal this month. "I’m proud of what I did and I’m not going to be ashamed of accepting a felony conviction," Hughes said in a phone interview with CQ Roll Call. "Somebody sent me a link to a song on YouTube, the title of which says it all. It says, 'Have You Been to Jail for Freedom?' It says it all.”  

Capitol Hill Grappling With D.C. Crime Spike

(Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When Capitol Hill’s police advisory council usually convenes to discuss crime and policing issues, a handful of residents show up. On Sept. 1, it was standing room only.  

Capitol Hill residents and others living in the Metropolitan Police Department’s 1st District gathered at the police station in Southwest D.C. to voice concerns about the recent spike in violent crime rocking the nation’s capital. In the front row sat 13 year-old Taije Chambliss, who walked into the station with help from a walker. Chambliss was recovering from being shot in a drive-by shooting on Aug. 30, just a few blocks from the police station. “It’s getting old,” one clearly frustrated resident told 1st District Commander Jeff Brown. “It’s getting increasingly more dangerous.”  

Capitol Police Arrest Secret Service Impersonator in Scalise's Office (Video)

Capitol Police arrested a man last month for reportedly impersonating a law enforcement officer in House Majority Whip Steve Scalise's Rayburn office.  

Darryl Sharp, 54, allegedly entered the Louisiana Republican's office around 2 p.m. on Aug. 19. He yelled at staff, demanded paperwork and claimed to be with the Secret Service, according to a person familiar with the incident. Scalise's staff called Capitol Police.

Doug Hughes Legal Team Takes Aim at D.C. Airspace Security

Hughes leaves the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse, May 21 after pleading not guilty to six counts regarding his landing of a gyrocopter on the West Lawn of the Capitol in April. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The legal team representing Douglas Hughes plans to poke holes in congressional testimony from federal officials who were called before Congress in the wake of Hughes' April 15 landing of his gyrocopter on the Capitol's West Front Lawn.  

If the gyrocopter case goes to trial, defense attorney Mark Goldstone intends to "expose the lack of security" in the heavily restricted airspace over Washington, he told reporters Thursday after a brief status hearing at the federal courthouse. Hughes' landing sparked questions about Capitol Hill’s airspace security, and provoked the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to call seven witnesses from the spectrum of agencies that defend D.C. airspace to compile a detailed timeline of what they knew.  

Marine Had Two Loaded Guns, 114 Live Rounds Outside Capitol, Police Say

Updated 4:44 p.m. |  The Marine Corps congressional fellow arrested Tuesday on Capitol grounds was carrying two loaded guns, 114 rounds of live ammunition, a military ballistic vest and two knives in his car, court documents state. Following an arraignment, he appears headed for a new assignment, off the Hill.  

Gunnery Sgt. Peter James Boby pleaded not guilty Wednesday to three misdemeanor charges in D.C. Superior Court. His wrists and ankles were shackled during the brief arraignment. Boby, who wore a plaid shirt and jeans, was released from custody on his personal recognizance around 3 p.m. He told CQ Roll Call he had no comment on the case. Court documents state that Boby approached a Capitol Police barricade on C Street SW at approximately 2:07 p.m. Tuesday, in a blue sedan with North Carolina plates. An officer noticed a "green metal military style ammunition box" in the trunk, according to court documents that provide a detailed account of the arrest, and discovered a handgun inside the box.

Gyrocopter Pilot Looks to Crowdfund Defense Counsel

Hughes wants to crowdsource his legal defense, but a federal judge isn't sure whether the law will allow it. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Florida mailman Douglas Hughes is looking to crowdfund a First Amendment legal defense against the six felony and misdemeanor charges he faces from his April 15 gyrocopter landing on the West Front. In federal court Wednesday, free-speech attorney Mark Goldstone described plans for an online fundraising effort that would capitalize on the "outpouring of support" from "across the country" to collect the money Hughes would need to retain Goldstone as a co-counsel. Sporting a navy silk tie emblazoned with the the Constitution, Goldstone called the flight "aerial civil disobedience."  

Hughes, 61, who filed for food stamps last month after being fired from the Postal Service, is currently represented by Assistant Federal Public Defender Tony Miles. With a client list that includes protesters arrested for demonstrating at the Capitol, Supreme Court and the White House, Goldstone would be brought on board to supplement Miles' services.  

Capitol Police Stop Ex-Cop From Taking Loaded Revolver Into Library

Police at the Library of Congress Jefferson Building found a loaded gun in the Virginia man's briefcase. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Updated 5:33 p.m. | Capitol Police stopped a 55-year-old Virginia man who claimed to be a local cop from carrying a loaded revolver into the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building Tuesday.  

Jeff Jefferson Ahn, listed as Yong Ahn in documents filed in D.C. Superior Court, entered the Jefferson Building's carriage entrance on First Street Southeast, Tuesday morning. He placed a black briefcase into the X-ray machine around 9:45 a.m. During screening, an officer noticed what appeared to be a handgun. Ahn was immediately placed into handcuffs while police investigated his briefcase. Inside, they found a Charter Arms .38 revolver, five rounds of ammunition and a brown holster, according to an affidavit. Doors were secured and a supervisor was called to the scene. Ahn spontaneously told police "that he worked for [Metropolitan Police Department] and that the revolver was his off duty" weapon, the document states.  

National Security or First Amendment? Gyrocopter Case Proceeds

Hughes wants to argue a "necessity defense" for his gyrocopter flight. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The airspace security concerns Congress has harped on since the April 15 gyrocopter stunt on the West Front continue to delay Douglas Hughes from a federal trial, but the Florida mailman has dreamed up his own defense strategy.  

Hughes presented his "necessity defense" to reporters Wednesday, after a status hearing in the federal courthouse mere blocks from the Capitol. "I flew here," the 61-year-old said, "because it's ... the only way I could come up with for the average person to have a pulpit to fight against billions of dollars of special interest money that dominates this city."  

Capitol Police Search Powers Provoke Constitutional Concerns

The April 11 suicide on the West Front shook tourists on the Capitol grounds. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The trio of congressional officials who have exclusive control over traffic rules on the Capitol grounds are ordering a change that would enhance Capitol Police's authority to search backpacks, suitcases and other personal belongings carried onto the 290-acre property.  

Under a section of code banning firearms, dangerous weapons and explosive devices, the language approved by the Capitol Police Board on July 15 states: "At the direction of the Chief of Police, the United States Capitol Police may search packages, bags, and other containers in the immediate possession of individuals who enter and are within the United States Capitol Grounds for the purpose of detecting prohibited items." Under current law, Capitol Police need probable cause to conduct such searches when they encounter suspicious individuals on campus. Even with that authority, they did not stop or search Leo P. Thornton on April 11, before he committed suicide on the Lower West Terrace.