2 of 3 Dougherty Gang Siblings Get Sentences Reversed - U.S. Eleventh Circuit
U.S. Eleventh Circuit - The FindLaw 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

2 of 3 Dougherty Gang Siblings Get Sentences Reversed

They are a trio of siblings so famous that GQ did an entire profile on them, post-crime spree. Dylan was the leader, Ryan was his younger brother who was on probation for sending explicit text messages to a minor. And Lee-Grace? She was the stripper with a machine pistol. Together, the Dougherty Gang shot at and outran a cop in Florida, robbed a bank in Georgia, and led officers on a high speed chase in Colorado, before spike strips sent their car into a tumble.

After a few more shots fired, and three arrests, the trio each earned a sentence of 428 months here in the Eleventh Circuit, along with other sentences in other jurisdictions. Now, thanks to a misinterpreted sentencing guideline, and one sibling's botched paperwork, Dylan and Lee-Grace will get a shot a resentencing, while Ryan counts down the next thirty-five years in a cell.

Lee-Grace and Dylan: Procedurally Unreasonable

When calculating the siblings' sentences, each received a six-level enhancement for assaulting a law enforcement officer during "the course of the offense or an immediate flight therefrom" in a manner creating a substantial risk of serious bodily injury.

The assault to which this enhancement refers was the gang's high-speed chase and shootouts in Colorado. But, as Lee-Grace and Dylan point out, this was eight days after the bank robbery in Georgia. There's nothing "immediate" about eight days later.

The Eleventh Circuit agreed, citing Black's ("occurring without delay; instant") and Webster's ("occurring, acting or accomplished without loss of time; made or done at once; instant.")

But Ryan, who apparently had different counsel, only raised the procedural unreasonableness argument sporadically, in passing, in his briefs. Without a dedicated section in his brief, the claim is waived.

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Ryan: Substantively Reasonable

Because of his flawed briefs, Ryan's counsel conceded that the only argument being presented was that his above guidelines sentence was substantively unreasonable. As you may suspect, that's a tough argument to win and indeed, Ryan didn't.

The panel noted that his sentence was less than the statutory maximum, and that the Dougherty Gang's actions were particularly egregious -- shooting at multiple police officers, erratic driving in multiple states (including leading the 9:00 a.m. on a weekday chase in Colorado, where Ryan drove on the shoulder to pass cars), and of course, robbing a bank. As the district court noted in its opinion: "it's a miracle that nobody was killed."

Given the severity of the crimes, the statutory maximums, and the deference shown to the sentencing court's judgments, there was no way he was going to win this claim.

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