Dougherty gang: Ex-fugitive brothers plead guilty in Colorado

Dougherty gang
The “Dougherty gang” brothers -- accused of robbing a bank, shooting at a police officer and outrunning authorities in multiple states with their sister last summer -- pleaded guilty Thursday to charges in Colorado, where they were apprehended.

Ryan and Dylan Dougherty will be sentenced in April, along with their sister, Lee Grace, who entered her own guilty plea last week. Ryan faces up to 20 years in prison for charges stemming from a chase and shootout in southern Colorado; his sister and brother face up to 28 and 32 years, respectively, the Associated Press reported. All agreed to reduced charges in a deal with prosecutors.

The Doughertys’ crime spree stirred up nationwide interest because of the siblings’ youth -- all are in their 20s -- and its resemblance to a Hollywood screenplay. Ryan and Dylan were carpenters, Lee Grace an exotic dancer. Some dubbed the trio “Bonnie, Clyde & Clyde.”

According to a recent GQ magazine story, Ryan was facing up to 15 years in prison for violating his probation in Florida; he had been convicted of sending sexually explicit text messages to an underage girl. So the siblings hatched a daring -- some would say foolish -- plan.

They packed their Subaru with an AK-47 and nine other guns, 2,000 rounds of ammunition and some clothes and food, and took off with vague hopes of escaping to Mexico, GQ said.

It didn’t take long before a Florida cop tried to pull them over for speeding -- an effort thwarted, he reported, when someone in the Subaru fired off about a dozen rounds. After that, authorities said, the trio robbed a Georgia bank at gunpoint, zipping away with $5,200 in cash. (The siblings still face charges in those states.)

The chase ended in Colorado, where authorities stopped the Subaru with a spike strip and rounded up the Doughertys when they ran.

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-- Ashley Powers in Las Vegas
Twitter.com/ashleypowers

Photo: Ryan Edward Dougherty, 21, Dylan Stanley-Dougherty, 26, and Lee Grace Dougherty, 29, have all pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a chase and shootout in southern Colorado. Credit: Pueblo County Sheriff's Office/Associated Press


After Russell Pearce ouster, Arizona may alter recall process

Russell pearce recall
Nothing rattles a bunch of politicians like the ouster of one of their own. So a few months after Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce was booted from his Phoenix-area seat, his former colleagues introduced a bill that would tinker with the recall process.

An immigration hard-liner who wrote SB 1070, Arizona’s controversial immigration law, Pearce was defeated in November by Jerry Lewis, a fellow Republican who advocated working alongside the federal government to curb illegal border crossings.

Pearce probably would have crushed Lewis in a primary, which tends to attract fewer and more politically fervent voters. “The ideologues all go to the polls and they elect ideologues -- the Russell Pearces of the world,” Arizona political scientist Bruce Merrill told The Times after the election.

But in a recall, Democrats and independents can weigh in, giving a boost to more moderate candidates. That’s why Pearce -- long considered Arizona's most powerful politician -- equated Lewis’ victory with “going through the backdoor.”

Under the bill, the recall process would shift substantially, the Arizona Republic reported. The legislation, which survived a state Senate committee vote this week, would add party primaries to recall elections.

If that system had been in place during the Pearce recall, only Republicans would have cast ballots in the GOP primary. And because there were only two candidates vying for the seat, no runoff would have been required. 

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--Ashley Powers in Las Vegas
Twitter.com/ashleypowers

Photo: GOP state Sen. Russell Pearce of Arizona, the force behind the state's controversial law targeting illegal immigrants, speaks at a news conference in November as results in the vote to recall him come in. Credit: Joshua Lott/Reuters


An offer you can't refuse: Las Vegas opens new Mob Museum

Mob museum vegas

In this casino town partly built on gangster money, it's a sentiment you hear with some frequency: Things were better when the mob ran Vegas.

It conveys a certain wistfulness for the smaller, ostensibly friendlier city where, decades ago, locals shrugged at mobsters' running casinos and reinventing themselves as civic leaders. Sports handicapper Frank "Lefty" Rosenthal hosted a television show. Bootlegger Moe Dalitz helped build a hospital.

The city began formally cashing in on its mafia legacy Tuesday with the opening of the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement -- better known as the Mob Museum.

The publicly funded museum opened in a former federal courthouse where a U.S. Senate hearing on organized crime was held in the 1950s. Its exhibits were shaped by historians and former FBI agents, and include crime scene photos, tommy guns and a brick wall shot up during the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day massacre in Chicago.

The $42-million project has raised some hackles among fiscal conservatives, who consider it a waste of taxpayer money, the Associated Press reported. But the museum's cheerleaders -- including mob attorney turned mayor Oscar Goodman -- are betting it will draw tourists from the Las Vegas Strip to a slowly gentrifying section of downtown.

Other recent efforts to capitalize on Sin City’s mobster past have had mixed success. The Vegas Mob Tour, a 2½-hour jaunt that includes a stop at Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel's Flamingo hotel, has managed to rumble along for several years.

“I try to do it tactfully and with taste, as much as you can with a mob tour,” founder Robert Allen told The Times in 2008. “You can say someone cut off someone's head with a machete, but we prefer to say ‘decapitated.’ ”

The Mob Experience at the Tropicana casino had a tougher time, despite its Strip location and an extensive collection of gangster artifacts. For example, it displayed one of Meyer Lansky's love letters to his wife: "Keep your legs crossed and go to sleep."

The attraction closed last year amid a bevy of problems, including the bankruptcy of its owner, Murder Inc LLC. It's slated to reopen under a different name.

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-- Ashley Powers in Las Vegas
Twitter.com/ashleypowers

Photo: A tommy gun exhibit at the Mob Museum in Las Vegas. Credit: Isaac Brekken / Associated Press


Victim of O.J. Simpson Vegas robbery accused of shoplifting

Oj simpson robbery victim
One of the sports memorabilia dealers whom O.J. Simpson was convicted of robbing in a down-market Las Vegas hotel is now fighting his own court battle.

Bruce Fromong, who testified against Simpson in the 2008 armed robbery trial, is accused of shoplifting from the Nellis Air Force Base Exchange near Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.  He is scheduled to appear in court Monday.

Authorities say that in October, Fromong swiped a Madden football PlayStation game from its package and a Case Logic briefcase; and that in November he removed another Madden disc from its package, taped up the box and put it back on the shelf.

In 2007, Fromong and Alfred Beardsley had gone to the Palace Station hotel expecting to sell Simpson collectibles to a wealthy buyer. The meeting was a ruse. Simpson and a ragtag band of men –- two of them armed -– stormed into Room 1203 and scooped up dozens of items. Simpson claimed he was merely trying to get back memorabilia stolen from him. 

Fromong made for a particularly interesting witness. He and Simpson had been such close friends, he said, that the football star used to sing "Happy Birthday" to Fromong's mother over the phone. But defense attorneys attacked him as a leech hoping to cash in on Simpson’s infamy. A recording captured Fromong telling someone minutes after the robbery: “I'll have 'Inside Edition' down here for us tomorrow. I told them I want big money.”

Jurors quickly convicted Simpson, who had been acquitted years before in the slayings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. A Las Vegas judge sentenced the former football star to between nine and 33 years in prison.

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-- Ashley Powers in Las Vegas
Twitter.com/ashleypowers

Photo: Then-Clark County Dist. Atty. David Roger, left, questions Bruce Fromong during O.J. Simpson's robbery trial in 2008. Credit: Daniel Gluskoter / EPA


Warren Jeffs: Lawsuit says polygamist leader ordered break-in

Warren jeffs
The onetime spokesman for Warren Jeffs has filed a $100-million lawsuit against the polygamous sect leader, saying Jeffs asked him to falsify church records and arranged a break-in at his excavating business when he refused.

The lawsuit offers a window into the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the reportedly vicious politics of Jeffs, who was recently sentenced to life in prison in Texas for sexually assaulting two young girls whom he said were his spiritual brides.

Former sect spokesman Willie Jessop said in court papers that Jeffs asked him last year to put a letter containing false information in church records, which the sect considers sacred, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. The letter was intended to cast doubt on allegations that Jeffs had married two different underage girls in Texas.

Jessop said he knew the information in the letter was false and refused to add it to the records, according to the lawsuit. In response, Jeffs had him excommunicated and demanded he leave the sect's enclave, which straddles the Utah-Arizona border. Jessop wouldn’t budge.

In April, Jessop said in court papers, someone broke into his excavating business and stole computers, hard drives and other files, the Tribune reported. Jessop blamed Jeffs and his associates. Jeffs is well-known for aggressive acts of retaliation, including expelling hundreds of teenagers -- the so-called “Lost Boys” -- reportedly to reduce competition for the sect’s women.

A few months after the alleged break-in, Jeffs was sentenced to prison in Texas. He remains the sect’s leader, however, and recently ordered members to hand over their personal possessions to church officials, who’d determine if they're worthy of getting them back.

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-- Ashley Powers in Las Vegas

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Photo: Warren Jeffs watches his attorney speak in court in St. George, Utah, in 2007. Credit: Jud Burkett/Associated Press


'Glitter bomb' for Mitt Romney? Not in Colorado

The young man who tried to “glitter bomb” Mitt Romney on Tuesday didn’t have a very good night.

First, he missed. Then he was issued a citation for causing a disturbance.

Peter Lucas Smith, 20, tossed blue glitter at the Republican presidential hopeful as Romney was shaking hands with supporters in Colorado, authorities told The Denver Post. Smith's throw fell short of Romney's head, and Secret Service agents quickly removed Smith from the room.

Smith is a student at the University of Colorado Denver, one of the schools on the campus where Romney appeared, and he supports gay rights, CBS4 reported.

Glitter bombs have been wielded by gay rights and Occupy activists a number of times this campaign season. In fact, Romney was dusted with glitter this month in Minnesota.

"I'm happy for the celebration, this is confetti. We just won Florida!" the well-coiffed candidate said at the time. "I've got glitter in my hair; that's not all that's in my hair, I'll tell you that. I glue it on every morning whether I need to or not.”

In Colorado, Romney dodged the glitter without comment. Perhaps that's because his mood was less festive -- he'd lost all three of the day's GOP contests to Rick Santorum.

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Video: Mitt Romney is glitter-bombed Tuesday in Colorado. Credit: YouTube


Teen suspected in Utah bomb plot had visited Columbine principal

Columbine memorial
After the Columbine High School massacre, Principal Frank DeAngelis spoke to most anyone who asked about the 1999 shooting rampage. He wanted to help prevent similar tragedies.

So he didn’t flinch when a 16-year-old Utah boy showed up at the suburban Denver high school in December, saying he was writing a story for his school newspaper. The boy wanted details about the day Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold gunned down 12 classmates and one teacher before killing themselves, and what the school did afterward to beef up security.

“He asked the same questions I get from many callers and visitors asking about the shooting,” DeAngelis told the Associated Press.

What happened next made him scrap his open-door policy.

About a month after he visited DeAngelis, the boy and a classmate were arrested on suspicion of planning to blow up their suburban Salt Lake City high school, steal a small plane and fly to safety. In a text message, the 16-year-old said he and fellow senior Dallin Todd Morgan, 18, wanted “revenge on the world,” the Salt Lake Tribune reported

"You do look for questions and red flags and things of that nature ... just because of everything I’ve been through,” DeAngelis told the Tribune. "There was nothing that stood out in my mind about the interview because it was so similar to interviews I had done before."

Authorities foiled the scheme when a fellow student told school officials that she had been warned to stay home on a certain day.

It remains unclear how much of the plan was braggadocio. For example, the 16-year-old told authorities he had experience making explosives from “gun powder and rocket fuel,” but they found no bomb-making materials while serving search warrants.

When police interviewed the 16-year-old and compared the plot to the Columbine killings, the boy was not flattered, the Tribune said

“[He] was offended by the fact that those killers only completed 1 percent of their plan and he was much more intelligent than that,” an investigator wrote in an affidavit. “[He] explained to me that he could complete his plan due to how intelligent he is.”

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--Ashley Powers in Las Vegas
Twitter.com/ashleypowers

Photo: On the 10th anniversary of the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, a visitor looks at memorials for the 12 students and one teacher who were slain. Credit: Jack Dempsey / Associated Press


Colorado medical marijuana shops in federal crosshairs

Colorado marijuana
Earlier this month, federal prosecutors sent letters to 23 medical marijuana dispensaries in Colorado, ordering them to shut down or face criminal charges. Now the owners must decide: stay and fight, or go?

"I feel like fighting," Diane Irwin, owner of Highland Health dispensary, told The Denver Post. "But I don't want to go to jail, either."

Irwin’s Denver business, which recently added a yoga room and more space for a hypnotherapist, is within 1,000 feet of a school. So were the others targeted by Colorado U.S. attorney John Walsh, who gave them until Feb. 27 to close.

Walsh told the Post that the dispensaries were a potential “threat to kids” because schools had seen a spike in drug-related violations as more medical cannabis outlets opened. Marijuana advocates said prosecutors were overreaching, particularly since the state has some of the nation’s toughest medical cannabis regulations.

Medical pot has strong backing in Colorado. The state was the nation's first to issue state-level business licenses for marijuana-related operations. Meanwhile, advocates are trying to get an initiative on the November ballot that would allow people 21 and older to legally posses up to an ounce of pot.

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Photo: A man smokes marijuana during a 2010 pro-marijuana rally at Civic Center Park in downtown Denver. Credit: Chris Hondros / Getty Images


New Mexico may limit driver's licenses for illegal immigrants

New mexico driver's licenses
New Mexico has been torn for some time as to whether undocumented immigrants should continue to be eligible for driver’s licenses. The state is one of two that allow it; Washington is the other.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, who was not in office when the legislation passed, says it encourages fraud. Her argument got some fuel this week from an Associated Press investigation showing that state driver’s license data pointed to possible abuse.

People without Social Security numbers who apply for New Mexico licenses must show multiple identifying documents and prove they live in the state. When the AP analyzed years of license data, the news service found dozens of addresses where fraud may have occurred.

For example, over a five-year period, 48 foreign nationals applying for licenses said they lived at an Albuquerque smoke shop. Seventeen people during a nine-month period said they lived at a car repair business. (It’s unclear whether the applicants were in the country illegally; the state does not ask about immigration status.)

The law’s supporters told the AP that the state could prevent abuse without stripping people of licenses they need to register their cars and get insurance.

A spokesman for Martinez, a former prosecutor, countered that the investigation was “yet another sign of how New Mexico's driver's license has been compromised.”

When state lawmakers took up the issue Thursday, Martinez’s proposal to repeal the license law got a rocky reception, the AP said. A legislative committee instead approved a Democratic plan to keep the licenses while imposing new restrictions.

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Photo: The group Somos Un Pueblo Unido, or "We Are a United People," protests Thursday in Santa Fe, N.M., against a proposed repeal of a law that allows illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses. Credit: J.R.Oppenheim/Associated Press


Vegas political couple breaks up; tawdry accusations fly

Nevada has survived its share of tawdry political scandals. Gov. Jim Gibbons endured accusations of infidelity and a messy divorce. Sen. John Ensign resigned after trying to cover up an extramarital affair with an aide.

But the latest scandal could top both in terms of ickiness, and tarnish the careers of two of the state's rising political stars.

Steve Sisolak, 58, is a Las Vegas-area county commissioner. He was dating Kathleen Vermillion, 44, a former suburban city councilwoman.

When they broke up, war broke out -- and in an astonishingly public way.

Last week, Vermillion sued Sisolak. One of her accusations was that he’d tried to carry on an “improper and secretive” relationship with her 15-year-old daughter, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

This week, Sisolak filed a criminal complaint against Vermillion. He claimed that, over the weekend, she’d tried to shake him down for $3.9 million. 

Vermillion’s camp called a news conference and played a heavily edited video of her teenage daughter, the Review-Journal reported. The girl said Sisolak was a “scumbag” who’d asked her to model bathing suits for him.

Sisolak denied the allegations and tried to exonerate himself by distributing text messages from Vermillion. “You are in over your head. I can, and will destroy you,” they said, according to a transcript he provided to reporters.

On Wednesday, Las Vegas Sun columnist Jon Ralston reported that the alleged extortion meeting was taped. “I hear it is awful,” he tweeted.

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-- Ashley Powers in Las Vegas

Twitter.com/ashleypowers


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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal


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