Friday, November 24, 2017
Public safety

Member of rampaging Dougherty gang sentenced in Pasco

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DADE CITY — On Friday morning, three years later, Ryan Dougherty apologized for spraying a pursuing police car with bullets.

It was the first stop on Dougherty's and his siblings' cross-country crime rampage and quick rise to infamy in 2011, when he and sister Lee Grace and brother Dylan were labeled "the Dougherty gang."

The rampage started as an escape plan to Mexico when Ryan violated his probation for "sexting" an 11-year-old girl.

At 7 a.m. on Aug. 2, 2011, Kevin Widener, a former Zephyrhills police officer and current Pasco sheriff's deputy, noticed the trio's white Subaru sedan going about 15 miles over the speed limit on U.S. 301. He turned on his emergency lights and followed the car. When the 100 mph chase ended about 4 miles later, authorities recovered 20 shell casings from the road and Widener's patrol car.

One of the shots blew Widener's tire and he had to stop. The Doughertys blazed out of the county, headed north.

The next anyone heard, they were in Georgia, where they put on masks and robbed a Valdosta bank. One of them fired an AK-47 into the ceiling before the group escaped with about $5,200.

The rampage ended eight days after it began, with a high-speed chase and shootout with police near Pueblo, Colo. The three were arrested on a slew of charges.

Since then, their cases have been winding through courts, local and federal, as far as their crimes took them.

They pleaded guilty in Colorado to charges there. Ryan was sentenced to 18 years in prison, Lee Grace got 24 years and Dylan got 32 years.

In 2012, they were sentenced by Senior Judge Hugh Lawson in Valdosta, Ga., to 35 years each for the bank robbery.

The siblings were scattered to prisons across the country. Ryan, now 24, was placed in Tucson, Ariz. Dylan ended up in Estill, S.C., north of Savannah, Ga. And Lee Grace is being held in a satellite for female prisoners at Hazelton prison in Bruceton Mills, W.Va.

Local prosecutors have worked to complete the paperwork necessary to have the trio brought back to Pasco so justice can be served here, which is why Ryan was in court Friday morning. He spent just 10 minutes in the courtroom, escorted in and out by armed deputies. He declined a request to be interviewed by a reporter at the Pasco County jail.

He pleaded guilty to attempted murder of a law enforcement officer and was sentenced to 40 years. He was also sentenced to five years for grand theft auto, another five for failing to respond to an address verification as a sex offender and 15 years for fleeing to elude.

Assistant State Attorney Manny Garcia said Ryan Dougherty's sentences will be concurrent, meaning they'll be served simultaneously after his time in federal prison.

Asked why Dougherty might not have decided to go to trial, Garcia declined to speculate, but noted the stack of other sentences he'll already be serving.

"Why fight it?"

Contact Alex Orlando at [email protected] or (727) 869-6247.

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