VALDOSTA, Ga. (AP) – Two of three siblings accused of robbing a south Georgia bank during a crime spree that started in Florida and ended with a shootout in Colorado pleaded guilty Monday in federal court on two counts each.
All three had pleaded not guilty to bank robbery and gun charges in May. Ryan Dougherty and Lee Grace Dougherty changed their pleas on both counts as part of agreements with prosecutors. Their brother, Dylan Stanley-Dougherty, is not scheduled to enter a new plea.
The crime spree began in August 2011 when an officer northeast of Tampa, Fla., tried to pull over their car for speeding. That led to a five-mile police chase at speeds around 100 mph. Two of the passengers fired at least 20 times at the officer pursuing them. He wasn’t hurt, but a bullet burst one of his tires, forcing him to give up the chase.
Ryan and Lee Grace Dougherty will be sentenced Dec. 17. Details of their plea deals were not disclosed in open court, but U.S. District Judge Hugh Lawson warned they are agreements only with prosecutors.
“They are not agreements between you and me,” Lawson told the brother and sister, who stood before him in pajama-like orange jail outfits with their hands cuffed and legs shackled, flanked by their lawyers.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert McCullers told Lawson the trio robbed the Certus Bank in Valdosta in August 2011 “using force, violation and intimidation” while getting away with $5,168.
McCullers said each sibling was armed and that Lee Dougherty and Dylan Stanley-Dougherty each fired a single round into the bank’s ceiling.
Lawson asked the pair if they agreed with the account McCullers read from a stipulation of facts.
“Yes, your honor, it is the truth,” Ryan Dougherty said.
Each faces a maximum sentence of up to 25 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for bank robbery. There’s a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years on the charges of discharging, using or carrying a firearm during the commission of a crime. The maximum is life and a $250,000 fine.
The siblings pleaded guilty to Colorado charges last August. Ryan Dougherty got 18 years, Lee Dougherty received 24 years and Dylan Stanley-Dougherty got 32 years for those charges.
They still face charges in Florida, stemming from the high-speed chase.
A few hours after the Florida police chase, the three made their way to Valdosta, about 210 miles to the north, authorities said. Dylan brandished an AK-47-style rifle, Lee Grace used a 9mm machine pistol and Ryan had a .45 caliber pistol stuck in his pants, McCullers said.
The robbers burned through $1,000 of their loot as they made their way west.
The string of violent crimes drew nationwide attention. The suspects’ images were plastered on electronic billboards throughout the Southeast. Their mother, Barbara Bell of Palatka, Fla., encouraged her children to turn themselves in before someone got hurt, while authorities warned the public to steer clear.
The manhunt ended Aug. 10, 2011, after two retired law officers spotted the three while on a leisure trip in the San Isabel National Forest. Within an hour, the fugitives were leading authorities on a 20-mile police chase on Interstate 25 that ended in Walsenburg, about 150 miles south of Denver.
Shots were fired at the officers before troopers deployed spike strips to puncture the tires of the trio’s Subaru.
Lee Dougherty bolted from the crash on foot, only to be shot in the leg by an officer after she pointed a pistol at him, authorities said.
By BILL KACZOR, Associated Press
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