3rd fugitive sibling sentenced in Colorado

By P. SOLOMON BANDA,Associated Press Updated at 2012-04-30 20:03:44 +0000


WALSENBURG, Colo. (AP) — The last of three siblings accused in a multistate crime spree was sentenced Monday to 18 years in prison on charges related to their capture in Colorado.

Ryan Dougherty, 22, had faced up to 20 years after pleading guilty to five counts of menacing.

Earlier Monday, Dougherty's sister Lee Grace Dougherty received a 24-year prison term, while his brother Dylan Stanley-Dougherty was given 32 years.

The three are accused of shooting at a police officer and staging a daring bank robbery in a cross-country crime spree that included Georgia and Florida. The manhunt for them ended after an Aug. 10 freeway chase and shootout with police in southern Colorado.

The sentencing hearings effectively end the siblings' stay in Colorado as Georgia authorities await their extradition. The U.S. Marshals Service will transport them to Albany, Ga., for a May 15 court hearing.

Lee Grace Dougherty, 29, had faced up to 28 years in prison after pleading guilty to first-degree assault and two counts of menacing. In court Monday, the judge told her that as the oldest of the three siblings, she should have shown better judgment.

"I'd like to say it was a lapse in judgment, but 10 days is not a lapse in judgment," Lee Grace Dougherty said. "It was bad, poor judgment."

The 27-year-old Dylan received the maximum prison sentence for his guilty plea to one charge of first-degree assault related to the chase and shootout in Colorado.

As part of plea deals, Colorado prosecutors agreed to drop multiple counts of attempted second-degree murder against the siblings.

In Georgia, the three face firearms and other charges in an Aug. 2 bank robbery in Valdosta. Witnesses say two men and a woman, dressed in black and wearing masks, entered a bank just over the Florida state line and fired shots into the ceiling. One carried an AK-47 type assault rifle and an automatic pistol, similar to weapons recovered after the siblings' capture in Colorado.

The trio made off with about $5,200 and had spent about $1,000 of it by the time police caught up with them in Colorado, authorities said.

Sue McKinney, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Georgia, did not return a message seeking comment.

The three are charged with firing shots at a police officer in Zephyrhills, Fla., some 210 miles south of Valdosta, during a high-speed chase earlier on Aug. 2.

In Florida, the siblings are charged with fleeing or eluding and attempted second-degree murder of a law enforcement officer. Convictions could mean life sentences, according to court officials. Ryan Dougherty also is charged with grand theft auto.

Florida authorities said the three had been living together in Lacoochee, about 45 miles northeast of Tampa, and each had a criminal record.

Before the alleged crime spree, Ryan Dougherty was sentenced to register as a sex offender for sending sexually explicit text messages to an 11-year-old girl. His mother, Barbara Bell of East Palatka, Fla., said her son feared the conviction would prohibit him from seeing his newborn son.

Lee Grace Dougherty said in court that her actions were prompted by her desire to protect Ryan.

"My motivation in all of this is I could not lose another sibling," she said, referring to a sister who died of an illness. "He's not only my brother, he is my best friend."

Dylan Stanley-Dougherty's lawyer, Kobea Becker, also portrayed his client as a loyal family member who was desperate to help his younger brother.

But Judge Claude Appel didn't buy the explanation.

"You're saving your brother from a probation sentence, for crying out loud, not a prison sentence," he said of the siblings' efforts to prevent Ryan from having to register.

Bruce Bartlett, chief assistant state attorney for Florida's 6th Judicial District, said authorities there are seeking extradition.

"We'll be seeking sentences that ensure they spend most of their life in prison, if not all of it, so if and when they were to get out of prison they would no longer pose a threat to everyone," Bartlett said in a phone interview.

Ryan Dougherty told authorities in Colorado that the trio hoped to escape to Mexico. The siblings told investigators they traveled across the country in a stolen car, taking back roads to avoid detection.

Lee Grace Dougherty was shot in the knee when she pointed a gun at a police officer after the trio rolled their car on Interstate 25 in Colorado.

Prosecutors say that Dylan Stanley-Dougherty was the one who fired an assault rifle at pursuing officers before the siblings' capture in Colorado, and was also the one who fired at a police officer in Florida and a bank robbery in Georgia. During the hearing, he told the judge he was sorry and didn't want to hurt anyone.

"It is true that I acted out of desperation, and I am sorry for choices that I made," he said.