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.
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
"This town sucks, and thank God I was not born here or raised here 'cause I would probably be dead by now."
That was the opening salvo from Sara Wells' roughly 8-minute video, "Why Sara hates Laredo," posted earlier this month on YouTube. The video, which appears to have been shot at home with Walls speaking directly to the camera, did not go unnoticed.
Walls, a Colorado native, explains at the start of the video that she moved to the Texas border city of about 230,000 people a year and a half ago, after her husband was transferred there for work. She then begins to rail against Laredo's Latino drivers, crime and life on the border.
"Half the people driving around have Mexican plates and don't know American laws," the young mother says. In the video, Walls wears a hoodie and dangling earrings -- her brown hair pulled back -- with what appears to be a wall of windows and family photos in the background.
Walls, who is white, says in the video that she's encountered "illegal Mexicans" in her backyard three times since moving to Laredo and that half the people in town don't speak English. She bases the statement, she says, on interactions she's had while driving to, among other places, Wal-Mart.
"The Mexican men here are disgusting," she says, and goes on to complain about being hit on. She also has a few things to say about Mexican moms covering their children's cavities with gold caps and feeding babies Pepsi. She even condemns menudo, a traditional Mexican soup, and the annual Laredo menudo festival.
"I have a list of bad stuff I hate about Laredo, that's how much I hate it," Walls says, glancing down to consult the list. "The whole town is really ghetto, sketchy, scary, unsafe."
"I pray to God that my husband can transfer out of here."
The video ends with Walls casually mentioning that she anticipates negative comments from "haters," but promising to read their comments nonetheless.
"I'm a white girl. How do they say it? They call me guera, gringo," she says. "I was never prejudiced against Mexicans until I moved to this town. So thank you, Laredo, for giving good Mexicans a bad name."
Walls grossly underestimated the potential effect of her video rant.
Overwhelmed by hundreds of negative comments and threats, she removed the video only to later see it posted again by critics, garnering more than 24,000 views and nearly 500 comments as of Friday. Viewers vented their anger on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, prompting a CNN ireport that fanned the flames.
"Get a life. Get a job and stop leeching off our Laredo economy and go back to Colorado," one critic wrote, adding, "By the way Colorado is a Spanish word that means red."
"I have blonde hair, green eyes and im not from here either but i love it here. This chick is stupid!" wrote another.
"Everyone should gather a ton of menudo and dump it on her garden at night," someone suggested.
Earlier this week, Walls' husband came forward to apologize on her behalf, but that failed to contain the controversy.
Michael Walls told Laredo's Pro8 News that his wife struggled with being away from her hometown and adjusting to a very different culture. After she posted the video, he said, he and his kids saw the community turn not just on her, but on them too.
"I'm just sincerely sorry and if there is anything I can do to make it right I mean I would but I didn't do it. So I'm apologizing for my family," Walls said on Monday. He added that the family has moved away from Laredo and has no plans to return.
The outraged included Laredo's mayor, who spoke out against the video the same days Walls' husband apologized.
"The city of Laredo has been offended," Mayor Raul G. Salinas told KGNS TV.
The mayor made a suggestion of what might help, besides apologizing: He invited Sara Walls to come see him at his office "to talk about the city of Laredo."
He said the video was "not fair to the people of Laredo" and claimed "the monster of racism has awoken."
"On YouTube, Facebook you can say whatever you want, but it does not give you the right to be destroying a great city and speaking ill of our culture and our people," he said, "Just because we happen to be bilingual is not a bad thing. It's a good thing."
The mayor went on to praise the local university and schools, tout the upcoming baseball stadium, golf course and the fact that local unemployment is at 7.2%.
"She's totally wrong," he said, "Laredo is numero uno."
Lee Grace Dougherty, one of the fugitive siblings of the Dougherty gang caught after a nationwide dragnet last summer, has pleaded guilty to reduced charges in Colorado and will have to serve at least nine years in prison, officials said.
Dougherty, 29, appeared in Huerfano County District Court in Walsenburg, Colo., about 160 miles south of Denver, on Thursday to plead guilty to one count of attempted first-degree assault and two counts of felony menacing, all felonies, according to court records.
As part of the plea, prosecutors agreed to drop 21 other charges against Dougherty, said Rob McCallum, a spokesman for the Colorado Judicial Department, who spoke with The Times.
Prosecutors had charged Dougherty, a former stripper, with five counts of attempted second-degree murder and other felonies connected with the chase and capture of her and her two brothers in southern Colorado on Aug. 10. The chase proved to be the end of what authorities described as a seven-state crime rampage by the clan dubbed “Bonnie, Clyde & Clyde.”
There's nothing in the deal that requires Dougherty to testify against her younger brothers, Ryan Dougherty, 21, and Dylan Stanley-Dougherty, 26.
The three are accused of shooting at a police officer in their native Florida, and later robbing a Georgia bank on their way to Colorado.
The most serious charge in Colorado, attempted first-degree assault, was for pointing a gun at Walsenburg Police Chief James Chamberlain, who watched Thursday’s plea hearing from a back bench, McCallum said. Chamberlain shot Dougherty in the knee after she and her brothers rolled their car at the end of a lengthy high-speed chase and she emerged pointing a gun at him.
At Thursday’s hearing, the judge asked Dougherty if she was taking any pain medication for the wound that could cloud her judgment in entering a guilty plea, and she assured him she was not, that it was just a scar, McCallum said.
Dougherty appeared before Huerfano District Court Chief Judge Claude Appel on Thursday in a yellow jail jumpsuit, hands shackled at her waist, her blond-brown hair darker than it was in August and pulled back in a ponytail, McCallum said.
McCallum said the judge took his time in reviewing the plea with Dougherty.
“He was very methodical this morning with Lee Grace — he wanted to make sure she understood,” McCallum said.
In response, Dougherty said of the plea: “This is really what I want to do.”
McCallum described Dougherty as “very quiet, very respectful to the court.”
At one point, when the judge asked Dougherty if she was satisfied with her attorney, court-appointed public defender Patrick McCarville, Dougherty described him as “the best lawyer ever,” McCallum said.
“She seemed to be in a good mood,” McCallum said.
Dougherty’s attorney could not be reached for comment Thursday. The prosecutor handling the case did not return calls. The judge has imposed a gag order because of the pending cases against Dougherty’s brothers, McCallum said.
Dougherty faces a maximum of 28 years in prison when she is sentenced April 30, McCallum said. The judge agreed to let Dougherty serve her Colorado sentence at the same time as any other sentences she may receive stemming from charges filed against her in Georgia and Florida.
She was being held at the Huerfano County Jail on Thursday, McCallum said.
Her two brothers are next scheduled to appear at plea hearings in Colorado on Feb. 16, but it was not clear Thursday whether their cases will go to trial, McCallum said.
Ryan Dougherty was being held at the Huerfano County Jail on Thursday, but brother Dylan Dougherty had been moved to Pueblo County Jail and now faces additional charges after he allegedly attempted to escape and was caught with contraband, McCallum said.
Photo: Lee Grace Dougherty is shown in August at the Pueblo County Sheriff's Office detention center in Pueblo, Colo., the day after she was arrested along with her two younger brothers. Credit: Mike Sweeney / Pueblo Chieftain
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.
A blizzard moving across Denver and into parts of the Midwest is dumping 2 inches of snow every hour, prompting the cancellation of 600 flights at Denver International Airport and closing roads across northeastern Colorado.
The fierce storm -- coming after a relatively mild and balmy winter -- is producing wind gusts of up to 40 mph and has forced closure of schools, businesses and government offices.
Denver's metro area has seen about 10 inches of snow so far, and snow totals are expected to hit about 2feet, said Chad Gimmestad, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Denver.
"It’s very slow moving," Gimmestad said. "It’ll be crawling across Kansas and Nebraska tomorrow. Here in Denver, we’re looking at least 36 hours of steady snow."
The storm, the worst blizzard since 2006, has caused hundreds of accidents on Colorado roads and highways, said Capt. Jeff Goodwin, a spokesman for the Colorado State Patrol.
"Mainly minor accidents, fender benders and spinouts," he said.
Two Colorado troopers investigating accidents were rear-ended, Goodwin said. One was treated at an area hospital for minor injuries.
Because of the winds, visibility was low -- in some places, only a few hundred feet, Goodwin reported. Denver International Airport said in a statement that about 600 flights had been canceled due to the storm.
The storm is expected to weaken and move out by Saturday night, the National Weather Service said.
The snowfall was a boon to ski resorts in the area, which have been starved for snow.
At Eldora Mountain Resort, the Denver Post reported that several hundred snow sport enthusiasts lined up for the first lifts to open.
Photo: Motorist Myron Balason takes a photo of his car on Highway 94 as he waits for a tow truck to pull his vehicle from a snowbank on Friday in Colorado Springs, Colo. Credit: Mark Reis / Colorado Springs Gazette