New indictments issued for man at center of North Carolina election fraud probe

Posted at 6:41 PM, Jul 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-30 20:41:19-04

The man at the center of an election fraud investigation in a 2018 North Carolina congressional race faced new indictments Tuesday along with multiple other individuals.

Leslie McCrae Dowless, a political operative in Bladen County who wasconnected to questionable absentee ballot activity, was indicted by a Wake County grand jury on two counts of felony obstruction of justice, perjury, solicitation to commit perjury, conspiracy to obstruct justice and possession of absentee ballot, according to a press release from the court. Dowless worked for Republican candidate Mark Harris, a Baptist minister who tallied 905 more votes than Democratic businessman and retired Marine Dan McCready in the election.

This marks the second set of indictments against Dowless arising from the investigation.

According to Tuesday’s indictment, Dowless “willfully, and feloniously did, with deceit and intent to defraud, obstruct public and legal justice by submitting or causing to be submitted by mail absentee ballots and container-return envelopes for those ballots to the Bladen County Board of Elections in such a manner so as to make it appear that those ballots had been voted and executed in compliance with the provisions of Article 21 of the North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 163A pertaining to absentee ballots when they in fact had not been so executed.”

The indictment says Dowless “directed individuals to collect absentee ballots from voters, at times instructed individuals to sign certifications indicating they had witnessed the voter vote and properly execute the absentee ballot when they had not, and mailed or instructed others to mail the absentee ballot in such a manner to conceal the fact that the voter had not personally mailed it himself.”

CNN has reached out to Dowless’ attorney for comment.

Dowless has previously denied any wrongdoing to The Charlotte Observer. After the first set of indictments against him, Dowless’ attorney, Cynthia Adams Singletary, said, “Do I think he’s guilty of that? No. There’s always the possibility of some kind of charges. I’ve been practicing for 32 years and had lots of innocent clients charged with things I didn’t think they were guilty of.”

Dowless’ actions resulted in the local Board of Elections counting spoiled ballots, according to the indictment. The irregularities in absentee ballot activity prompted a chaotic scene: The North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement twice refused to certify Harris as the winner, leaving North Carolina the only state without settled election results. A special election to fill the seat will take place in September.

The Wake County grand jury also handed down indictments to others who are alleged to have conspired with Dowless: Lisa Britt, Ginger Eason, Woody Hester, James Singletary, Jessica Dowless and Kelly Hendrix. The court said it expected the defendants to turn themselves in over the next few days.

Karen Brinson Bell, executive director of the North Carolina State Board of Elections, said in a statement that Tuesday’s indictments were the result of “an extensive investigation.”

“The absentee ballot fraud that occurred in the 9th Congressional District effectively disenfranchised voters in that district,” she said. “North Carolina voters should be confident that state officials will continue to be vigilant and pursue any individuals or organizations that attempt to undermine our elections. Democracy is best served by holding those who attempt to thwart it accountable.”

The Wake County grand jury’s news release says the district attorney and State Bureau of Investigations will continue to work with investigators from the North Carolina State Board of Elections and federal authorities.