A Pasco County man pleaded guilty Friday to robbing a south Georgia bank and firing an assault rifle into the ceiling during a 2011 crime spree with his brother and sister than began with a Zephyrhills police chase and ended in a shootout in Colorado.
Dylan Dougherty Stanley, 27, almost derailed the plea deal when he told a U.S. District Court judge he disagreed with one part of prosecutors' narrative of the crime — that all three siblings threatened bank employees in Valdosta during the robbery Aug. 2, 2011.
"I never threatened anybody," Stanley of Zephyrhills, said after telling the judge that prosecutors' version of the crime was "99.9 percent" correct. "Everything else was exact and that does not negate the fact that I was in the bank with a firearm."
Judge Hugh Lawson made prosecutors and defense attorneys amend the paperwork before allowing Stanley to enter his plea.
Stanley's siblings — Ryan and Lee Grace Dougherty — pleaded guilty to similar Georgia charges last month. Terms of their deals with prosecutors were not disclosed in court. All three will be sentenced Dec. 17 in Valdosta. The bank robbery charges carry up to 25 years in prison, while the gun charge is punishable by 10 years to life to in prison.
Stanley delayed his hearing about 20 minutes after asking to speak to his lawyer alone, but he went through with the plea deal.
During court, he laughed out loud when the judge asked Stanley if he had discussed possible trial defenses with his attorneys, then added, "I'm not suggesting you necessarily have any."
"We went over that, your honor," Stanley replied, still chuckling.
The suspect also interrupted the judge at one point to ask: "Would you mind referring to me as Mr. Dougherty?" Then he added: "I'm sorry, judge."
Lawson had been calling him "Mr. Stanley." His attorneys explained that's his legal name, one he got from adoptive parents. But they said he prefers Dougherty, his birth name. The judge honored his request.
The siblings became wanted fugitives on Aug. 2, 2011, when they fled from a police officer who was trying to pull over their car for speeding Zephyrhills. The chase reached speeds of 100 mph and at least 20 gunshots were fired from the fleeing car at the pursuing officer. The suspects got away after a bullet burst a tire on the police car.
A few hours after the chase and 210 miles away, the three fugitives put on masks and sunglasses before storming into the Certus Bank in Valdosta, Ga. Security cameras recorded Stanley, armed with an AK-47 style assault rifle, and his sister, with a machine pistol, firing one shot apiece into the ceiling.
Their brother, meanwhile, stuffed $5,168 from the teller drawers into a tool bag and the three escaped. No one was injured in the robbery. All of them admitted to their roles during their plea hearings.
The hunt for the Dougherty siblings drew national attention as their photos were plastered across electronic billboards throughout the Southeast. Their mother, Barbara Bell of Palatka, encouraged her children to turn themselves in, while authorities warned the public to steer clear.
The manhunt ended eight days after it began when two retired law officers in Colorado spotted the suspects in the San Isabel National Forest. The fugitives again tried to escape, leading police on a 20-mile chase on Interstate 25 that ended in Walsenburg, about 150 miles south of Denver.
Shots were fired at the officers before troopers used spike strips to puncture the tires of the suspects' Subaru. Lee Dougherty bolted from the crash on foot. An officer shot her in the leg after she pointed a pistol at him, authorities said.
All three siblings pleaded guilty to Colorado charges last August. Ryan Dougherty got 18 years, Lee Dougherty received 24 years and Dylan Dougherty Stanley got 32 years in prison for those charges.
They still face charges in Pasco, stemming from the police chase that kicked off the crime spree.