CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - McCrae Dowless, a Bladen County political operative at the center of the 9th District election fraud case, was indicted by the Wake County District Attorney Wednesday and charged with election-related crimes.
Dowless, who was hired by Mark Harris to run an absentee ballot operation in Bladen, Robeson and Cumberland Counties in the 2018 election, was arrested after indictments became public Wednesday morning, according to his attorney.
The Grand Jury returned sealed indictments on Tuesday against multiple people, including Dowless, following last week’s District 9 investigation hearing.
The indictment said Dowless’s actions “served to undermine the integrity of the absentee ballot process and the public’s confidence in the outcome of the electoral process.”
The North Carolina SBI arrested Dowless in Bladenboro Wednesday and took him to the Wake County Detention Center. Dowless was charged with three counts of felony obstruction of justice, two counts of conspiracy to commit felony obstruction of justice and two counts of possession of an absentee ballot.
Dowless was released from jail Thursday after Bladen County Commissioner Ray Britt provided a check for Dowless’ bail. Britt said he delivered the check on behalf of others.
The defendant “unlawfully, 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," the incitement states, "in such a manner to conceal the fact that the voter had not personally mailed it himself.”
Read the full indictment below.
Dowless’ attorney sent the following response in Dowless’ arrest and indictment:
Caitlyn E. Croom, Matthew Monroe Mathis, Tonia Gordon and Rebecca Thompson also face charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice and possession of absentee ballot. Mr. Mathis also faces charges of falsely signing the voter certification on an absentee ballot, according to the DA.
“The State Board of Elections commends Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman, her staff and the State Bureau of Investigation for their efforts in bringing this serious election fraud from 2016 and the 2018 primary election to prosecution,” the NCSBE said in response to Dowless’ indictment.
"These indictments should serve as a stern warning to anyone trying to defraud election in North Carolina,” said State Board Executive Director Kim Westbrook Strach.
The board says it plans to send staff members to Bladen and Robeson counties ahead of the new election in the 9th Congressional District to monitor and assist with the elections process.
Two sealed search warrants filed by Wake County District Attorney Lorin Freeman and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation provided the first clues as to the nature of the criminal investigation into allegations of election fraud in the 9th Congressional District.
Previously, the North Carolina State Board of Elections had referred its findings from an investigation into alleged wrongdoing in the 2016 election in Bladen County to federal prosecutors.
Court paperwork related to the sealed search warrants shows the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation opened its investigation into the alleged election fraud in Bladen County in February 2018.
Freeman has previously said the new allegations of election fraud that surfaced after the 2018 election in Bladen County were being investigated in conjunction with the NCSBE’s referral from the 2016 allegations.
Harris’ opponent in the 2018 election, Democrat Dan McCready, released a statement about Dowless’ charges Wednesday evening.
“Today’s indictment is an important first step in sending a clear message to all those involved in the historic election fraud in our district. If you cheat, if you attack our democracy, if you silence voices, if you steal votes, you will face the full force of justice,” McCready wrote. "Every voter in North Carolina deserves a continued and complete investigation, one that holds every operative, candidate and party leader responsible for their actions.”
NCSBE says the board will meet Monday to set a calendar date for a new election in the 9th Congressional District.