The Whole True Story of the Dougherty Gang
January 11, 2012 7:17 PM   Subscribe

In the news media and on the Internet, there was a great deal of speculation about the rhyme and reason behind the crime spree, with observers often reaching the conclusion that there wasn't any.

I didn't bother with any of the articles while these three were still on the road. I thought the headlines told me all I wanted to know. I was wrong.
posted by Mr. Yuck (32 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Huh, the article seems to lay out a pretty obvious motive:
After sentencing, Ryan had to report immediately to a probation officer, who told him he wouldn't be able to attend his son's birth or live in the same house with him. He made a frantic call to his lawyer, who reassured him an emergency motion would be filed that would allow him to live with his son. Then the probation officer said he had to fit Ryan with an ankle monitor, and Ryan felt he'd been sucker punched—the judge hadn't mentioned anything about that, either. Ryan would have to pay $240 a month to wear the monitor, the officer told him. He made less than a thousand a month. How were he and Amber and the baby going to survive?

At eight o'clock that night, another probation officer met with Ryan and Amber at the house in Lacoochee. The meeting started out badly, with the P.O. telling Ryan, "Eighty percent of the people on your type of probation fail and go to prison." He went on to say that if Ryan didn't get permission from the judge, either he or Amber and the baby would have to find somewhere else to live. And even if the judge let them all live together, Ryan still wouldn't be able to take his son anyplace where other kids would be—no trips to the playground, no picking him up at school when the time came, no Chuck E. Cheese's, no Little League games.

But Ryan had a more immediate problem, one that was going to get him thrown into prison. He didn't have mail service—the house in Lacoochee didn't even have a mailbox—and he needed two pieces of mail in order to obtain an ID that reflected his status as a sex offender. The P.O. told him that, by law, he had forty-eight hours to fix this, to get mail delivered to a house without a mailbox in an area that had no mail service. All of Ryan's pleading for more time left the P.O. unmoved. "That's your all's problem," he told them. As he left the house that night, he said, "I'll be back in forty-eight hours to arrest you." He said it without heat, almost casually. Just like that, Ryan was going to be locked away for fifteen years. Just like that, his life was over. Really over, because Ryan was sure he wouldn't survive his sentence: "People like me get stabbed in prison, we get beat to death." The way he figured it, he had forty-eight hours left to live.
All this for sending text messages to an underaged girl, apparently.
posted by delmoi at 7:56 PM on January 11, 2012 [13 favorites]

I didn't have any trouble figuring out what this fpp was about.

I liked this piece a lot. I was struck by the same section you were, delmoi - like, yup, there's your motive, right there.

Thanks for this.
posted by rtha at 8:15 PM on January 11, 2012

In the spring of 2009, when he was 19, he had exchanged a series of sexually explicit text messages with a girl who he thought was 13; she was actually 11. In the space of one week, the two texted and called each other 376 times. On the eighth day, he wrote her: "im done with middle and hs I have a grown mans cock and I don't think ud kno what 2 do with it"
posted by nadawi at 8:18 PM on January 11, 2012

Mod note: Few comments removed. Do not threadshit in someone's first post. Do not threadshit in anyone's post. Thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:19 PM on January 11, 2012 [7 favorites]

good article. it shows the way in which many people find themselves in trouble--after all this guy exchanged a few messages only to find himself facing 15 years in prison. seems to be that's a bit of overkill ... as is charging him $240 a month for his probation. nice to know someone made money off of that.
posted by lester at 8:29 PM on January 11, 2012

He thought the girl was 13 and he texted her about his cock. There are some 13-year-old girls at my elementary school... that can be 6th grade, depending on the birthday. I'm ignoring the fact that the girl was actually 11, which is 4th or 5th grade. He's texting a 5th grader about his penis. He can't spend any time near kids, so he goes on a rampage... screw that guy, he shouldn't be near kids, and I'm not buying that he's a victim of the justice system.
posted by Huck500 at 8:40 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

A couple of months ago a guy (in Florida) who got life sentence for having child porn on his computer, which is much longer then the jail sentence that most people get for actual child molestation.
He can't spend any time near kids, so he goes on a rampage...
Did you read the article? They were going to send him to prison for 15 years for violating his probation: Apparently he had to receive and mail in some paper work for his sex offender ID, and since he didn't have mail service, he couldn't do it. Rather then work something out, or give him more time, his probation officer just said he was going to have him arrested in two days, and sent to prison for 15 years. He was also only 17 when he sent the texts.
posted by delmoi at 8:49 PM on January 11, 2012 [4 favorites]

the article says he was 19 when he sent the texts in that portion i quoted up there.

it sounds like he had super shitty representation and should have been more prepared for the sentence, but you can't really say he just sent a couple of texts to an underage girl. he called/texted with an 11 year old (or 13 if you believe he thought that) nearly 400 times and told her she was too young to know what to do with his cock.

i agree that there's a lot wrong with the sex offender laws, but over emphasizing the punishment while under emphasizing the crime isn't a great way to argue it.
posted by nadawi at 8:55 PM on January 11, 2012 [2 favorites]

Interesting article. I didn't much empathize with the siblings, and I definitely didn't empathize with the law.

People who are sexually interested in people much their junior are broken. It's wrong in cases like this, and I don't think people my age interested in relationships with 20-year-olds are much less broken. At least in the latter case the younger party can consent. But, still, 15 years? For a situation where there wasn't contact? That seems a bit overwrought.
posted by maxwelton at 9:28 PM on January 11, 2012

I can sympathize with Ryan for lashing out. He was backed into a corner. Actually I'm amazed he didn't kill his PO.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 9:31 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

I didn't much empathize with the siblings, and I definitely didn't empathize with the law.

Me too, this.
posted by rtha at 9:57 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

The whole texting-as-a-crime thing is missing the point a bit.

He could have committed involuntary manslaughter (and their weekend activities don't make it sound unlikely) -- and they still would have done the same stupid shit. He didn't run because of the nature of his crime, he ran because he didn't think he would survive prison.

Nice article though.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:25 PM on January 11, 2012

He didn't think he'd survive prison because of the nature of his crime.

Seriously, there is this mythological beast which is continuously constructed and nourished by the retelling of the story: Child sex offenders are tortured and killed in prison. Like most myths, there is some truth behind it. But also like most myths, it gets bigger with the retelling.

There are people in prison who take a twisted pride in fulfilling this myth, living down to expectations. There are prison officials who sanction this behavior! The prisoners who behave outside of expectations are problems. The ones who behave as predicted are acceptable.
posted by Goofyy at 10:49 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Nice story, but those kids were all dumb as a post. They can't get mail service at their house? Anyone can get a P.O.B. The probation officer doesn't make the call, the worst he can do is send them to court, the judge decides and usually they will bend to an impossible situation.

So in response to erroneously thinking he was backed into a corner, he goes on a multi-state crime spree, doesn't bother to take his tools, just a bunch of guns laying openly in the back of the car and speeding while you are on the lamb with a car full of weapons.

I have no sympathy, there is not a single intelligent move from beginning to end.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 11:00 PM on January 11, 2012

So psycho-alchemy, your problem is that he wasn't crafty enough in his crime spree, or that he should have secured his parolee status first, THEN gone on the rampage, or which?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:04 PM on January 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

Come on, this is ridiculous. Is sexually texting someone, even a child, really something to completely destroy someone's life for?!

And the massive unfairness of his treatment from start to finish. What's the point? Why not just kill him, rather than the endless humiliation?

This guy was left with literally no options. No wonder he went berserk. Hell, reading the bullshit with the mail made me want to go berserk.

> They can't get mail service at their house? Anyone can get a P.O.B.

Are you reading some other article? They needed the mail to establish proof of residence. Can't do that with a post office box, can you?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:20 PM on January 11, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oh, and hundreds of years in jail for these dumb kids - but if they'd forged papers to throw families out of their homes into the street, they'd have been paid by a bank to do so and never have spent a day in jail.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:23 PM on January 11, 2012 [9 favorites]

He could have committed involuntary manslaughter (and their weekend activities don't make it sound unlikely) -- and they still would have done the same stupid shit.
Maybe. But it sounds like the fact that his family felt he was getting railroaded played a big part in their decision to go on the run.
Nice story, but those kids were all dumb as a post. They can't get mail service at their house? Anyone can get a P.O.B. The probation officer doesn't make the call, the worst he can do is send them to court, the judge decides and usually they will bend to an impossible situation.
Exactly. Stupid people the the worst ever. Just because he was told by his probation officer that he was going to send him to jail doesn't mean was actually going to happen. Why not do the sensible thing and assume that the government official put in charge of you by the courts is actually incorrect when he says he's going to throw you in jail?

Plus I mean, the guy is dumb, apparently, and even though it's not illegal, it should be. All dumb people should have random, bureaucratic puzzles thrown at them from time to time and thrown in jail if they fail. And those puzzles should definitely involve being lied to by authorities, otherwise they wouldn't be hard enough and a few of them might slip through the cracks!

Stupid poor people, anyway. Will let the rich ones hire good lawyers with all their money to make sure we don't accidentally trap any wealthy dumb people.
posted by delmoi at 12:00 AM on January 12, 2012 [13 favorites]

Fear makes you dumb. Don't even think, for a moment, that the so-called "authorities" don't know this, and use it.
posted by Goofyy at 12:02 AM on January 12, 2012 [2 favorites]

I wonder what the sentencing guidelines actually were. Despite the article painting the judge as sympathetic, the whole thing didn't happen in a vacuum:

>Ryan Dougherty has an arrest record stretching back to age 15, when he
>was charged with disrupting a school function in Flagler County. Later arrests
>included battery, burglary, destroying evidence and possession of methamphetamine.

He didn't think he'd survive prison because of the nature of his crime.

I wasn't 100% clear on that from the article, but it seems reasonable enough. Although reasonable is a hard word to apply to any of this.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:03 AM on January 12, 2012

I typed that before identifying his photograph. His fear also involved the simple fact that he's trim and smooth. IOW, a pretty boy. Not a good way to enter prison.
posted by Goofyy at 12:53 AM on January 12, 2012

This post just about completes the offering for Tuesday January 10 2012.
posted by pianomover at 1:22 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm kind of surprised that there's no Wikipedia article about any of this. Usually major crime stories get an entry.
posted by delmoi at 4:41 AM on January 12, 2012

$240 fee to you for your ankle monitor, what a fucking ripoff. How is that just, to have the parolee pay for that?
posted by Meatbomb at 5:11 AM on January 12, 2012

I just read this article the other day. While I don't think any 19 year old should be texting any 13 year old (much less an actual 11 year old) about any sort of cock besides Foghorn Leghorn, I do think the punishment should fit the crime.

I made a connection, as I was reading, to a book I recently finished, Russell Banks' Lost Memory of Skin. The basic premise was that in the city in which the work was set, there was a group of men who were living under a highway overpass. The reason? They were all sex offenders, from actual men who raped children to men who were convicted for flashing when they were just peeing in public, and the law stated that they were not allowed to be within 1/4 mile of anywhere children might gather. And the only place in the whole city they could go where that was actually true was either the airport or under this overpass.

Then one day, there's a news report about them. There's an outcry that there's this encampment of perverts out there. There's a police raid.

I won't go any further, but I think the sex offender laws are starting to resemble the draconian drug laws of the 70s, and no effort to try and actually think through the problems, the causes and the solutions.

Like in this case: the guy gets probation. He lives in the sticks where you can't get mail delivery. He needs to have documents mailed to and from his actual house (not a POB) in order to maintain probation. Officer comes out, instantly says he's violating his probation, he's going to jail, 15 years.

What bureaucratic nonsense. How much money would it cost the state to warehouse this kid for 15 years? In prison, where he'll no doubt be subjected to all sorts of shit for being a "baby banger" and come out a seriously fucked up, far more criminal individual? Versus going back to court to work out a solution that doesn't cause 3 kids to go on a 19 state crime spree trying to find a better way? I mean, really? We can't put our heads together and come up with something better than that?
posted by nevercalm at 5:14 AM on January 12, 2012 [7 favorites]

USA today reports that Ryan had 14 previous felony convictions, including probation violations, burglary, and hit and run. A 15 year sentence- with probation- doesn't seem unreasonable for a repeat offender at this magnitude.
posted by jenkinsEar at 5:59 AM on January 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

Google map of some of the locations.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:38 AM on January 12, 2012

Great article, though pretty heartbreaking. How anyone can justify this system of corrections and incarceration is beyond me.
posted by broadway bill at 7:00 AM on January 12, 2012

It sounds from the article like these three have gotten the shit end of the stick for pretty much their entire lives, and I can easily believe it – there are millions of kids like that in this country, millions of adults too. It's not hard to see why they might not be shining exemplars of human potential. This business with the parole officer was just the last straw in a long sorry story of abuse, neglect, loss, and despair. Their reaction was irrational and probably foolish, but given the context of their lives I can easily understand why it would look like they had few other options. Hell, I'm not even sure they were wrong about that.
posted by Scientist at 7:31 AM on January 12, 2012

$240 fee to you for your ankle monitor

Every once in a while the system slips up and makes it really blatant that if you have money you don't go to jail. It's not about having a better lawyer, or knowing a friend of the DA, or being an "upstanding member of the community". Nope! Just write us a check and be on your way.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:24 AM on January 12, 2012 [4 favorites]

Can anyone else access GQ articles on their iPhone? I always get the ""Could not open the page, too many redirects" error.
posted by beepbeepboopboop at 11:46 AM on January 12, 2012

Beepbeepboopboop - that happens to me. Copy and pasting the URL from the menu post into a new browser window works for me.
posted by youthenrage at 7:28 PM on January 12, 2012

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