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Dougherty brothers enter plea in Colorado court

Last summer, Ryan Dougherty found himself facing two new roles:

Father.

And sex offender.

Dougherty, who was convicted Aug. 1 of sending sexually explicit text messages to an 11-year-old girl, feared the conviction would keep him from seeing the baby, his mother Barbara Bell told the Associated Press. So the next day he and his siblings, who had been living in Lacoochee, hit the road with plans to rob a bank and flee to Mexico. Authorities say the Dougherty trio opened fire on a Zephyrhills police officer, robbed a Georgia bank and shot at Colorado officers before their capture in a manhunt that grabbed national attention.

What began as a mad dash for freedom will put Ryan Edward Dougherty behind bars — and away from his son — for years to come.

Dougherty, 22, pleaded guilty in Colorado court Thursday to five counts of menacing stemming from the Aug. 10 high-speed chase that ended with his capture in the foothills of southern Colorado. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors believe Ryan Dougherty was the driver while his siblings fired shots at the Colorado officers in pursuit. Dylan Stanley-Dougherty, 26, pleaded guilty Thursday to a charge of first-degree assault and faces up to 32 years in prison. Lee Grace Dougherty, 29, pleaded guilty last week to first-degree assault and two counts of menacing and faces up to 28 years in prison. All three siblings are scheduled to be sentenced April 30.

The pleas came in the 3rd Judicial District Court in Walsenburg under deals in which prosecutors agreed to drop more serious charges of attempted second-degree murder and other felonies filed against all three siblings. In previous hearings, defense attorneys pointed to the siblings' statements to investigators that they were trying to scare off pursuing officers, not trying to hurt them. Defense attorneys also noted that there didn't appear to be bullet holes in the officers' vehicles.

The plea deals for all three allow them to serve their sentences at the same time as other sentences that may arise from convictions in Florida and Georgia.

A grand jury in Georgia issued a federal indictment Dec. 15 charging the trio with bank robbery and with using firearms while committing a violent crime. The trio are also charged in Pasco with fleeing and eluding, although Pasco Sheriff's spokesman Kevin Doll said shortly after their capture that they would likely be charged with attempted homicide of a law enforcement officer.

Dylan Stanley-Dougherty also faced charges of conspiracy to escape and possession of contraband after he got out of his jail cell last month and delivered a note to his sister telling her he was going to break her out of jail, authorities said. Those charges were also dropped as part of his plea agreement.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys have previously declined to comment, citing a gag order issued by Chief District Court Judge Claude Appel.

Dougherty brothers enter plea in Colorado court 02/16/12 [Last modified: Thursday, February 16, 2012 8:29pm]
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