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Dougherty siblings sentenced in Colorado for 2011 shootout

Ryan Dougherty stood in the Colorado courtroom and wept. He was sorry, he said. Sorry for the trouble he had caused his siblings. Sorry for what his girlfriend and newborn son had endured during the eight days he and his brother and sister hid from the law last summer and were ultimately caught after a shootout in Colorado.

Third Judicial District Judge Claude Appel was unmoved.

"The whole thing started because of you," he told the 22-year-old Lacoochee resident on Monday afternoon. "You're no hero. This is not Robin Hood. This is about three young people who did a really stupid thing."

And with that, he sentenced Ryan Dougherty to 18 years in prison, just two short of the 20 years he could have received as part of a plea deal.

Earlier that day, his sister, Lee Grace Dougherty, 29, and brother, Dylan Stanley Dougherty, 27, were also sentenced to prison from the courthouse in Walsenburg, Colo. Lee Grace Dougherty, who was shot in the knee by a local police chief after pointing a gun at law enforcement officers, got 24 out of a possible 28 years. Dylan Dougherty, who fired at officers but missed, got the maximum 32 years. All had pleaded guilty earlier this year for their roles in the takedown south of Pueblo, Colo.

They still face charges in two other states.

The cross-country crime rampage, which started Aug. 2 and included the armed robbery of a Valdosta, Ga., bank, began one day after Ryan Dougherty was sentenced to probation for "sexting" with an 11-year-old girl. His Florida attorney said that conditions of probation likely caused the trio to hatch a plan to rob a bank and flee to Mexico, where he wouldn't have to wear an ankle monitor, obey a curfew or worry about not being allowed to visit his newborn son.

"I think he was overwhelmed by the restrictions on his movement," said Robert Eddington, the Volusia County attorney who represented Ryan Dougherty when he pleaded no contest to the sexting charge. He described him as immature, with the mentality of a 15-year-old.

"Kids are influenced by the movies," he said, recalling an outlaw film such as the 1987 movie Wisdom, where two young lovers rob banks across the country to aid farmers.

But only one day in and a few miles down the road, the plan quickly got out of control when they shot at and outran a Zephyrhills police officer who tried to pull them over for speeding. Officer Kevin Widener was not injured.

Hours later, the trio allegedly robbed a Valdosta, Ga., bank at gunpoint. Surveillance cameras showed one of the three masked robbers shooting an assault rifle at the ceiling while another waved a machine pistol.

That's when they became known across the nation as the Dougherty Gang.

The chase ended on Aug. 10 when officers caught up to them after getting a tip they'd been seen at a Colorado campground. Prosecutors believe Ryan Dougherty was the driver while his siblings fired shots at the officers in pursuit.

Lee Grace Dougherty, a former exotic dancer, apologized Monday for her poor judgment and told the judge she wanted to move on with her life and pursue a degree in forensic pathology, court spokesman Rob McCallum said. She said she hoped she would be judged by her good deeds rather than the eight days she spent on the lam.

Appel expressed skepticism. "As the oldest, you had plenty of time to say, 'This is nuts; it's over,' " he said.

Dylan Dougherty also expressed remorse. "I never wanted to hurt anybody," he said, his voice wavering. "I'm sorry for the choices I made."

Shackled, his long hair pulled back into a ponytail, he told the judge he hoped the court "would look at me as a person." Appel commended him for being courageous in court but said he deserved the maximum penalty for his careless disregard for others' safety.

"What you did that day on the highway was nothing but cowardice," he said.

McCallum said Appel also considered the fact that the siblings' car contained more than 2,000 rounds of ammunition.

All are allowed to serve the Colorado sentence concurrently with any other prison time they might get for crimes in other states.

McCallum said the siblings would be taken into custody by U.S. marshals and sent to Georgia to face charges related to the bank robbery. After that, they could return to Florida to face charges in connection with the shots fired at the Zephyrhills police officer. Ryan Dougherty also faces a grand theft charge for taking his girlfriend's car and a charge of failing to register as a sex offender, a requirement of his probation.

Pinellas-Pasco Assistant State Attorney Manny Garcia said Monday that he hopes federal authorities will release the three to answer to the Florida charges after the bank robbery case is resolved.

"They've got the football; they can take it away," he said, adding that right now he sees no reason why they wouldn't. "But you never know."

What's next for the Doughertys

All three will be sent to face firearms and bank robbery charges in Georgia. They also face charges in Pasco County of second-degree attempted murder and aggravated fleeing and eluding. Ryan Dougherty also faces a charge of grand theft and failing to register as a sex offender.

Dougherty siblings sentenced in Colorado for 2011 shootout 04/30/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 9:00am]
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