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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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


'Dougherty gang' sister enters guilty plea in Colorado

 

Lee Grace Dougherty

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.

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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


Polo club's John Goodman, facing lawsuit, adopts girlfriend, 42

John Goodman, the wealthy founder of the International Polo Club Palm Beach, seems a bit young -- some accounts say 48, others say 49 -- to have a 42-year-old daughter. Nonetheless, he does. He’s legally adopted his 42-year-old girlfriend.

The fact that Goodman is being sued in civil court over a fatal car accident in Palm Beach County, Fla. -- and the move could protect his assets -- has nothing to do with the adoption, his attorney says.

Perhaps, but the maneuver has surprised even the judge in the civil case, who called it "unprecedented" and "surreal," according to the Palm Beach Post. The move takes the court into a "legal twilight zone," the judge said.

Authorities say Goodman was driving drunk on Feb. 12, 2010, when he ran a stop sign and slammed into a car driven by Scott Patrick Wilson, 23, killing him. Goodman allegedly fled the scene of the crash and, when found later, he reportedly had a blood-alcohol level of more than twice the legal limit.

Goodman has pleaded not guilty to charges related to the case, including vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of a crash. He faces a criminal trial next month and, if convicted, could be sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Meanwhile, Goodman is also being sued in civil court by the parents of the young man who was killed.

And it seems safe to say that everyone connected to the case was surprised to learn that Goodman  legally adopted his girlfriend, Heather Laruso Hutchins, on Oct. 13 in Miami-Dade County.

The Post reports that Kelley had previously ruled that the trust set up for Goodman's two minor children could not be considered as part of Goodman's financial worth if a jury awarded damages to the Wilsons. The trust is now effectively split three ways, the newspaper says, due to the adoption of Hutchins, who told the court she began dating Goodman in 2009.

Attorneys for the Wilsons say that Goodman is manipulating the system, using the trust to shield his sizable assets and then adopting his girlfriend so he can use her to gain access to that money.

Goodman's assets are worth "several hundred million dollars," his attorney told ABC News.

But Dan Bachi, Goodman's civil attorney, told the Post that critics have it all wrong. Hutchins' adoption was done to ensure the future stability of his children and family investments, he told the newspaper. "It has nothing to do with the lawsuit currently pending against him," Bachi said.

The judge so far seems to be siding with the Wilsons. And a recent ruling seems to suggest that the legal gambit -- if that's what it is -- might backfire.

"The Court cannot ignore reality or the practical impact of what Mr. Goodman has now done," Kelley wrote in court documents obtained by the Post. "The Defendant has effectively diverted a significant portion of the assets of the children's trust to a person with whom he is intimately involved at a time when his personal assets are largely at risk in this case."

And then there's the impact that the adoption headlines -- the case is tabloid fodder throughout Florida -- might have on prospective jurors in both the civil and criminal cases. It will be hard if not impossible to keep them from hearing about it, and they might not like what they hear.

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-- Rene Lynch
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Burmese pythons turn Everglades into a buffet

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The growing number of Burmese pythons in Florida's Everglades has turned the subtropical wilderness area into the reptilian equivalent of a buffet, with important native mammals as the featured dish.

In a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, researchers report that the giant snakes have put a serious dent in the Everglades’ usual ecosystem, devouring the wide array of animals that live there.

The pythons don’t seem to be especially fussy eaters, chowing down on anything that moves --  raccoons, opossums, deer, birds, even alligators. All have turned up in the stomachs of captured pythons.

The python problem has been growing for decades, scientists believe. A collector probably released some specimens into the wild perhaps 15 to 30 years ago; since then, the snakes, which measure as long as 16 feet, have proliferated.

The latest report is based on nocturnal field surveys. Before 2000, mammals were frequently encountered, but in the newer surveys, covering 2003 to 2011, the number of observed mammals  dropped significantly. There was a 99.3% decrease in raccoon observations; opossum observations were down 98.9%; and bobcat observations were off by 87.5%. Scientists said they failed to detect rabbits at all.

Federal officials recently announced a ban on the import and interstate transport of Burmese pythons and three other nonnative species of snakes, calling them a threat to the environment, especially in Florida.

The impact of the ban was unclear, however, since the number of pythons has grown to the tens of thousands over the years, almost all having being born in southern Florida.

The scientists write in the new report: "Whether mammal populations will remain suppressed
or will rebound remains to be seen. The magnitude of these declines underscores the apparent incredible density of pythons in [Everglades National Park] and justifies intensive investigation into how the addition of novel apex predators affects overall ecosystem processes."

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Photo: In this 2009 photo provided by the National Park Service, a Burmese python is wrapped around an American alligator in Everglades National Park, Fla. Credit:  Lori Oberhofer/National Park Service/Associated Press

 


Smoke in Florida pileup may have come from deliberately set fire

The smoke suspected of contributing to a fiery, multicar pileup on Interstate 75 in Florida early Sunday may have come from a deliberately set fire. The pileup killed 10 people, injured 18 and left a mile-long trail of wreckage.

The scene looked, one witness said, "like the end of the world."

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board are joining the Florida Highway Patrol in efforts to pinpoint the cause of the chain-reaction wreck, which occurred near Gainesville at about 3:45 a.m. Sunday and spanned both the northbound and southbound lanes.

PHOTOS: Florida interstate pileup

Low visibility, possibly caused by a combination of fog and smoke from a nearby brush fire, appear to have played a role, forcing cars, trucks and motor homes to suddenly slow down and pull over -- and begin slamming into each other. Cars burst into flames. Trucks crushed smaller vehicles.

"In that area, the road, it kind of dips down, it's a low area, we had a mixture of fog and smoke that combined and kind of laid into that area, [and] made visibility a factor," Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Patrick Riordan said (see video above).

Authorities had shut down the stretch of road earlier in the evening due to a crash, but reopened it later. No doubt, questions will be raised about whether the roadway should have remained closed for public safety.

Eyewitness Steven R. Camps of Gainesville attempted to describe the accident to the Gainesville Sun: “It looked like someone was literally throwing cars,” he said. “I honestly sat there and thought I would never get out of that situation alive, even after I got out of the car.”

He told CBS News: "You could hear cars hitting each other. People were crying. People were screaming. It was crazy." He said he had been driving home with friends when he found himself staring down the carnage. "I would say it looked like the end of the world."

Before the investigation is over, it could turn into a criminal investigation, CBS said. State officials can find no natural cause, no natural explanation like a lightning strike, that could have started the brush fire. They say it may have been intentionally set.

The highway has since been reopened to traffic.

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-- Rene Lynch
Twitter / renelynch


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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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