VALDOSTA, Ga. (AP) – Three Florida siblings involved in a cross-country crime spree were sentenced by a federal judge Monday to more than 35 years in jail.
Senior Judge Hugh Lawson sentenced Ryan Dougherty, Lee Grace Dougherty and Dylan Dougherty Stanley to identical sentences for their role in the August 2011 robbery of a South Georgia bank. Their spree began in Florida and ended in a shootout in Colorado.
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 Stanley 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 Stanley 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 Stanley got 32 years for those charges.
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 re-impose 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.
The sibling’s plea agreement called for allowing them to serve their sentences at the same time as other sentences for charges they might face in Georgia and Florida.
The three still face charges in Florida, where they are accused of shooting at an officer during a high-speed chase.
The sentencing hearing took more than two hours, and all three siblings were in the courtroom. Ryan Dougherty and Lee Grace Dougherty wore orange prison uniforms; Dylan Dougherty Stanley wore a gray-striped one. All were handcuffed and in leg chains.
Attorneys for the siblings argued that certain factors should not have been considered in their sentence, 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.”
The siblings became wanted fugitives Aug. 2, 2011, when they fled from a police officer trying to pull over their car for speeding northeast of Tampa, Fla. The chase 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.
A few hours after the chase and 210 miles away, the three fugitives put on masks and sunglasses before storming into the Certus Bank in Valdosta. Security cameras recorded Stanley, armed with an AK-47 style assault rifle, and his sister, with a machine pistol, firing one shot apiece into the ceiling.
Their brother, meanwhile, stuffed $5,168 from teller drawers into a tool bag, and the three escaped. No one was injured.
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.
In court Monday, the lawyer for Lee Grace Dougherty said she pointed her weapon at the officer in Colorado only because she was afraid someone would shoot her brother and because she was suicidal and wanted police to shoot her.
John Gee Edwards, a Valdosta attorney, told the judge that the three siblings endured an abusive childhood and that Lee Grace Dougherty had been hospitalized for depression and anxiety.
Associated Press writer P. Solomon Banda in Denver contributed to this report.
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