Operative in disputed 9th District race indicted on several charges, arrested

BLADEN COUNTY, NC (WWAY/AP) — The man at the center of the criminal investigation into ballot issues in Bladen County has been indicted on several charges.

A news release from the Wake County District Attorney says a grand jury indicted Leslie McCrae Dowless on three counts of felony obstruction of justice, two counts of conspiracy to commit obstruction and two counts of possession of absentee ballots.

According to testimony and other findings detailed at an election board hearing last week, Dowless conducted an illegal “ballot harvesting” operation. He and his assistants are accused of gathering up absentee ballots from voters by offering to put them in the mail.

He was working on behalf of Republican candidate Mark Harris, who had a slim lead in the vote count before a new election was ordered.

Dowless attended part of the Board of Elections’ evidentiary hearing, but he declined to testify.

“My client did not testify at the recent State Board of Elections hearing. However Lisa Britt testified and put on quite the performance admitting she had broken numerous laws,” Dowless’s attorney Cynthia Singletary told WWAY in a statement. “(Wake County) District Attorney Lorrin Freeman announced that there had been no immunity deals, so where are Lisa Britt’s indictments? The truth will prevail.”

“These indictments should serve as a stern warning to anyone trying to defraud elections in North Carolina,” said Kim Westbrook Strach, State Board executive director. “Today is a new and better day for elections in our state.”

Caitlyn E. Croom, Matthew Monroe Mathis, Tonia Gordon and Rebecca Thompson have been charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice and possession of absentee ballots. Mathis also faces charges of falsely signing the voter certification on an absentee ballot.

The SBI said in a news release that agents had arrested Dowless today in Bladenboro and took him to Wake County to face the charges.

Mark Harris announced this week that he will not run in that election, citing his health. He was hospitalized last month by a blood infection and said he suffered two strokes. He said he needs surgery late next month.

The State Board will meet Monday to set a calendar for a new election, which will go all the way back to the primary process, but Dan McCready has said he will run.

Read the full indictment of McCrae Dowless here

Categories: Bladen, Local, News

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