(c) 2015 Tampa Bay Times
The Ruskin mail carrier who flew a gyrocopter onto the lawn of the U.S. Capitol to protest campaign finance reform has added a new lawyer to his defense team.
In a routine hearing Thursday morning, a federal judge permitted Doug Hughes to retain Mark Goldstone, an attorney specializing in First Amendment issues. Goldstone will represent Hughes alongside a federal public defender, Tony Miles.
Hughes is accused of six federal crimes, including violation of national defense airspace, aircraft registration violations and operating a vehicle falsely labeled as a postal carrier.
The possibility of a plea deal rose once again in Thursday's hearing, but Hughes said such an agreement is unlikely.
"In my opinion, that's not going to happen," he said.
Having already rejected a deal offered by prosecutors in July, Hughes said he would be open to one that includes no jail time.
His lawyers said they are still expecting the case to go to trial. If convicted, Hughes could get as much as 9 1/2 years in prison.
Hughes, 61, made national headlines April 15, when he took off in a gyrocopter from Gettysburg, Pa., intending to fly to the Capitol to deliver letters about campaign finance reform to each member of Congress. When he landed, he was arrested by Capitol Police.
Hughes has said he may pursue a "necessity defense" to justify violating the restricted D.C. airspace. If a judge permits it, the defense would allow Hughes to make his trial less about aircraft regulations and more about the influence of big money in politics.