RALEIGH, N.C. (WBTV) - McCrae Dowless and six of his associates were indicted on allegations of election fraud stemming from the 2018 general election on Tuesday.
Dowless -- who has emerged as the central figure in the months-long scandal that left the 9th Congressional District seat open -- 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.
The indictment alleges that Dowless “with deceit and intent to defraud, obstruct(ed) 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 thsoe 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 the yin fact had not been so executed, to wit: defendant 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.”
As a result, the indictment said, spoiled ballots were counted by the local Board of Elections and the tally sent to the state board of elections.
The indictment also charges Dowless with having possession of the ballots of two voters in the 2018 general election; asking Lisa Britt--who was the first witness at the NC State Board of Elections hearing on the 9th District election this past February--to give false testimony by giving her a slip of paper with a pre-written statement to read on the witness stand; for perjuring himself at an NCSBE hearing in December 2016 held in response to a complaint filed by Dowless in that year’s election; and to conspiring with others to give false statements to NCSBE investigators and investigators with the NC State Bureau of Investigations.
This is the second time Dowless has been indicted by a Wake County grand jury on charges related to election fraud.
Dowless was first indicted and arrested in late February on charges related to the 2016 general election and 2018 primary election.
He pleaded not guilty to those charges and remains out on bond.
In addition to Dowless, the grand jury charged six others with crimes associated with the 2018 election, all of whom are alleged to have conspired with Dowless.
Lisa Britt, whose mother was once married to Dowless and who has described Dowless as being like a father figure to her, was charged with one county each of conspiracy to commit felonious obstruction of justice, possession of absentee ballot and voting as a felon.
Britt, who testified at the NC State Board of Election hearing in January that she was still on probation for a previous felony drug conviction when she voted in 2018, in alleged to have voted in October 2017, May 2018 and October 2018.
Ginger Eason, who along with her brother, Chris, have emerged as recurring figures in the NC-9 investigation, was indicted on one count each of conspiracy to commit felonious obstruction nof justice and possession of an absentee ballot.
Woody Hester, who was a close associate of Dowless’ through the 2018 election, faces two counts of conspiracy to commit felonious obstruction of justice and one count of possession of absentee ballot.
James Singletary, who is alleged to have conspired with Dowless during the 2018 election, is charged with conspiracy to commit felonious obstruction of justice and possession of absentee ballot.
Jessica Dowless is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit felonious obstruction of justice and swearing falsely. The latter charge stems from allegations that she signed voters’ ballots as a witness when she did not, in fact, actually witness the voter complete their absentee ballot.
Kelly Hendrix, who is alleged to have worked for Dowless in both the 2016 and 2018 elections, was indicted on two counts each of conspiracy to commit felonious obstruction of justice and possession of absentee ballot; with one set of charges stemming from the 2016 election and one set of charges stemming from the 2018 election.
NOTE: This story previously mentioned Tonya Long, but officials with the Wake County District Attorney said her name was submitted to the Grand Jury in error, and she will have her charges dismissed.
In announcing the charges late Tuesday afternoon, Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman, who is prosecuting the case, said the investigation into election fraud in the 2018 election continues.
Freeman said late Tuesday that a court date for a first appearance would be set by a magistrate after each defendant turned themselves in.
State Board of Elections executive director Karen Bell released a statement about the new charges Tuesday evening:
"Today’s indictments are a product of an extensive investigation by the State Board of Elections, Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman’s office and the State Bureau of Investigation.
"The State Board has a dedicated division that investigates reports of election law violations and refers them to prosecutors when warranted by the evidence, as it did in this case.
"The absentee ballot fraud that occurred in the 9th Congressional District effectively disenfranchised voters in that district.
“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.”