WALSENBURG, Colo. (AP) — One of three fugitive siblings who were the focus of a nationwide search last summer will have to serve at least nine years in prison after pleading guilty to reduced charges.
Lee Grace Dougherty, 29, pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of attempted first-degree assault and two counts of felony menacing, all felonies.
As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors agreed to drop 21 other charges. Prosecutors had originally charged her with five counts of attempted second-degree murder and other felonies related to the trio’s Aug. 10 capture following a chase in southern Colorado.
She faces a maximum of 28 years in prison when she is sentenced April 30.
“It’s the court’s decision on what would be an appropriate sentence,” Judge Claude Appel told Dougherty.
There’s nothing in the deal that requires her to testify against her brothers, Ryan Dougherty, 21, and Dylan Stanley-Dougherty, 26. Authorities have also discussed possible deals with them.
The trio is accused of shooting at a police officer in Florida, as well as robbing a Georgia bank.
Appel agreed to let Dougherty serve her Colorado sentence at the same time as any other sentences that may arise from convictions in Georgia and Florida. Appel noted there’s a federal case pending in Georgia, and possibly a case pending in Zephyrhills, Fla.
Doughtery appeared in court wearing a yellow jail uniform, with her hands handcuffed to her waist, shackled and with an electronic monitor on her ankle.
She spoke quietly but firmly as she answered the judge’s questions.
“Guilty, your honor,” she answered three times in court as she entered the pleas to each charge.
The most serious charge, attempted first-degree assault, was for pointing a gun at Walsenburg Police Chief James Chamberlain, who watched the proceedings from a back bench.
Chamberlain shot Dougherty in the knee after the trio rolled their vehicle and Dougherty got out and pointed a gun at him.
“I deserved to get shot,” Dougherty said shortly after being arrested, according to investigators.
Appel asked Dougherty if she was taking any pain medication for the wound that could her judgment in entering a guilty plea.
“No sir, it’s just a scar,” she answered.
The agreement allows Appel to impose sentences harsher than the standard range for the charges she pleaded to. She faces up to six years for each menacing charge, double the standard three years, and 16 years on the attempted first degree assault, double the standard eight years.
Appel noted that the aggravating factors were that the crimes were committed against police officers.
“Chief Chamberlain … I do believe he was off duty but he notified you that he was a police officer,” Appel said.
District Attorney Frank Ruybalid and Dougherty’s defense attorney, Patrick McCarville, declined comment after the hearing, citing a gag order imposed by Appel because of the pending cases against her brothers.
Prosecutors believe Ryan was the driver during the chase and alleged shootout while Dylan used the weapon, according to statements in court by Appel and charges filed against the brothers. Lee Grace Dougherty pleaded guilty to menacing as a conspirator.
With Lee Grace Dougherty’s case resolved, Ruybalid told Appel he would return to chamberlain a Glock 9mm semi-automatic handgun that had been in evidence since August. Appel agreed to allow that.
Chamberlain also declined comment, citing the gag order.
During a September hearing, a Colorado Springs detective testified that Ryan Daugherty, the youngest of the three, told him that they hatched a plan to rob a bank and take the money to flee to Mexico.
Ryan Dougherty had just been sentenced to register as a sex offender for a conviction of sending sexually explicit text messages to an 11-year-old girl.
The siblings’ mother, Barbara Bell of East Palatka, Fla., told The Associated Press in August that her son was discouraged by the terms of his probation and feared the conviction would prohibit him from seeing his newborn son.
Authorities in Florida said all three siblings had been living together in Lacoochee, Fla., about 45 miles northeast of Tampa, and each had a criminal record. Lee Dougherty has charges pending against her in Florida for hit and run and had previously been charged with battery. Stanley Dougherty had been charged with marijuana possession.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
- Dougherty siblings set to appear in Colo. court (tampa.cbslocal.com)