Leslie McCrae Dowless, man at center of North Carolina election fraud scandal, indicted

Leslie McCrae Dowless was indicted by a grand jury on three counts.

February 27, 2019, 1:16 PM

Leslie McCrae Dowless, a figure at the center of North Carolina's 9th Congressional District election fraud scandal, was indicted by a grand jury Wednesday on charges of obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and possession of absentee ballots.

PHOTO: Executive director of the Board of Elections Kim Strach questions the first witness during the public evidentiary hearing on the 9th Congressional District investigation, Feb. 18, 2019, at the North Carolina State Bar in Raleigh.
Executive director of the Board of Elections Kim Strach questions the first witness during the public evidentiary hearing on the 9th Congressional District investigation, Feb. 18, 2019, at the North Carolina State Bar in Raleigh.
Juli Leonard/The News & Observer/AP

The Wake County District Attorney's Office announced the charges Wednesday afternoon, the week after the state board of elections ordered a new election be held in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District.

The charges were brought after a presentation of "evidence gathered during the investigation into absentee ballot irregularities in Bladen County during the 2016 General Election and the 2018 Primary Election," according to Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman, who notes that the investigation into Dowless activities and irregularities in the 2018 general election is still ongoing.

The charges also come a day after Mark Harris, the Republican candidate who hired Dowless as a political consultant on his congressional campaign, announced that he will not run in the new election ordered by the state board.

Freeman also said she has met with the North Carolina State Board of Elections and that officials there anticipate that their investigation will be completed "within the next thirty days."

In a statement released Wednesday, the state board commended Freeman and her staff for their work in "bringing this serious election fraud from 2016 and the 2018 primary election to prosecution."

"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."

The board also announced that the meeting to decide the date of the new election in North Carolina's 9th Congressional District will take place on March 4th.

PHOTO: Mark Harris, Republican candidate in North Carolina's 9th congressional race, makes a statement during a public hearing at the North Carolina State Bar in Raleigh, N.C., Feb. 21, 2019.
Mark Harris, Republican candidate in North Carolina's 9th congressional race, makes a statement during a public hearing at the North Carolina State Bar in Raleigh, N.C., Feb. 21, 2019.
Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP, FILE

Dowless has been arrested and is being transported to the Wake County Detention Center in Raleigh, and his bond is set at $30,000.

When contacted by ABC News, attorneys for Dowless offered a "no comment," when asked about the charges.

Dowless' activities became the center of a months-long investigation that culminated in an intense, emotional public hearing last week that ended with the state board of elections unanimously voting to hold a new election in the state's 9th Congressional District due to the widespread nature of the fraud alleged.

Dowless did not testify at the hearing after the board refused to grant him immunity in exchange for his testimony.

Harris continually denied any knowledge of an illegal scheme run by Dowless, who he said assured him that he was running an absentee ballot program that complied with state law.

However in a stunning reversal at last week's hearing, just hours before the board's decision, Harris said that he believed a new election should be ordered.

"Neither I nor any of the leadership of my campaign were aware of or condoned the improper activities that have been testified to in this hearing," Harris said. "Through the testimony, I've listened to over the past three days, I believe a new election should be called. It has become clear to me that the public's confidence in the 9th District's seat general election has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted."

In a statement released on Tuesday, Harris said he will not run in the new election in North Carolina's 9th district, citing recent health issues.

"Given my health situation, the need to regain full strength, and the timing of this surgery the last week of March, I have decided not to file in the new election for Congressional District 9," Harris wrote.

In his statement outlining his reasons for not running, Harris endorsed Union County Commissioner Stony Rushing.

Harris' Democratic opponent in 2018, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Dan McCready, announced last week that he will be running the new election.

PHOTO:Ninth Congressional district Democratic candidate Dan McCready smiles outside Eastover elementary school in Charlotte, N.C., May 8, 2018. McCready, handily defeated 2016 party nominee Christian Cano in Tuesday's Democratic primary.
Ninth Congressional district Democratic candidate Dan McCready smiles outside Eastover elementary school in Charlotte, N.C., May 8, 2018. McCready, handily defeated 2016 party nominee Christian Cano in Tuesday's Democratic primary.
Jeff Siner/The Charlotte Observer via AP

"I am running in the special election to represent the people of the 9th District," McCready told supporters. "I want to say right now that we are in this fight and we are going to win this fight."

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