VALDOSTA, Ga. — Three Pasco County siblings involved in a cross-country crime rampage were each sentenced by a federal judge Monday to more than 35 years in prison.
Senior Judge Hugh Lawson sentenced Ryan Dougherty, Lee Grace Dougherty and Dylan Dougherty to identical sentences for their role in the August 2011 robbery of a South Georgia bank. Their rampage began when they shot at and outran a Zephyrhills police officer who tried to pull them over for speeding and ended in a shootout in Colorado. The chase on Aug. 2, 2011, in Pasco reached speeds of 100 mph, and at least 20 gunshots were fired from the fleeing car at the pursuing officer. The suspects got away after a bullet burst a tire on the police car.
The hunt ended eight days after it began when two retired law officers in Colorado spotted the suspects in the San Isabel National Forest. The fugitives again tried to escape, leading police on a 20-mile chase on Interstate 25 that ended in Walsenburg, about 150 miles south of Denver.
Shots were fired at the officers before troopers used spike strips to puncture the tires of the suspects' Subaru. Lee Dougherty bolted from the crash on foot. An officer shot her in the leg after she pointed a pistol at him, authorities said.
On Monday, Lawson went beyond normal sentencing guidelines, saying that even though the trio was young and impulsive, the "escapade" could not be condoned.
"Let me say this: This was a crazy dangerous thing," Lawson said from the bench. "I just think it is a miracle that no one was killed."
Dylan Dougherty and Lee Grace Dougherty did not voice opposition to the sentence, but Ryan Dougherty called the judge's decision rash and "not in line with the crimes I've committed."
Before the sentences were announced, the three siblings apologized to the employees at the Valdosta bank where the robbery took place. Dylan Dougherty acknowledged that it was a "scary situation" for them.
Lawson sentenced each sibling to 35 years and 8 months, and to five years of supervised release after their prison sentences. He said that with good conduct they could get out of jail after 30 years.
The three have already pleaded guilty to Colorado charges stemming from their capture in August 2011. Ryan Dougherty got 18 years, Lee Grace Dougherty received 24 years and Dylan Dougherty got 32 years for those charges. The three still face charges in Florida.
The sentences in Colorado were vacated as part of a plea agreement that called for reconsideration based on the sentences the siblings would receive in Georgia and Florida. Chief District Court Judge Claude Appel, in his Oct. 22 order temporarily setting aside the sentences, retained jurisdiction to reimpose the sentences if necessary. In handing down the sentences in April for the crimes committed in Colorado, Appel said they were meant to ensure the siblings were held accountable.
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Attorneys for the siblings argued that certain factors should not have been considered in their sentence in Georgia, including what they did in Colorado. The attorneys argued with the judge about whether their high-speed chase and shootout there a week after the robbery was part of their "immediate flight" after the Valdosta bank robbery.
Lawson rejected the objections and said the three were in Colorado because they were in "continuous flight."