Dowless, associates turn themselves in on new charges as attorney questions timing of indictment

Updated: Jul. 31, 2019 at 5:32 PM EDT
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ELIZABETHTOWN, N.C. (WBTV) - McCrae Dowless and others indicted by a grand jury on Tuesday on charges related to election fraud turned themselves into a magistrate in Bladen County on Wednesday.

Dowless and five others were indicted by a Wake County grand jury on charges largely related to alleged fraud in the 2018 election.

Dowless was previously indicted this past February on charges related to alleged election fraud in the 2016 general election and 2018 primary election.

Agents with the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation were seen walking Dowless and two others charged in the indictment through the gate into the Bladen County jail individually early Wednesday afternoon.

At different times, the two other men seen by a WBTV reporter at the jail getting processed--Woody Hester and James Singletary--compared themselves to President Donald Trump, noting both they and Trump had been accused of obstructing justice and colluding with others. Like Trump, both men are also Republicans.

Related: McCrae Dowless, associates face new charges in NC-9 election fraud investigation

Dowless was silent as he walked in and out of the jail.

While he was being processed, Dowless’ attorney, Cynthia Adams Singletary, spoke with WBTV about the new charges and the status of the criminal case related to the charges brought in February.

“I was surprised that there were some new things coming down right now, right before the election,” Singletary said. “We’re right in the middle of a special election Bladen County’s involved in. It’s surprising.”

Reached by phone late Wednesday afternoon, Freeman pushed back against any suggestion that the new indictment was brought at a time that could interfere with the 9th District special election, which is will be held September 10.

“We’ve made every effort to avoid any impact or appearance of impact as to the political process in any election,” Freeman said, noting that her office waited until after the NC State Board of Election finished its investigation and hearing into the 2018 9th District election before bringing any criminal charges.

Asked specifically whether her office considered the fact that Tuesday’s indictments would be coming a little more than a month before the 9th District special election--after absentee ballots had already started being mailed and weeks before early voting started--Freeman responded “not at all.”

“There was no consideration given to the fact that the special election is taking place shortly,” Freeman continued, noting that the investigation into voter fraud in Bladen County has stretched across years and its time to move forward with the prosecution.

Singletary, Dowless’ attorney, said she has had little contact with Freeman or her office since Dowless was first indicted in February. She said there have been no discussion about a possible plea deal nor any additional attempts to interview Dowless.

“My understanding is they keep saying we’re still investigating and it’s still under investigation,” she said. “I think they’re still investigating and providing discovery.”

Full Coverage: Click here to read all of WBTV’s coverage of the NC-9 investigation

Elsewhere in Bladen County on Wednesday, residents continued to reflect on the new charges handed down against Dowless and others, which alleges he improperly took voters’ ballots and sent them to the board of elections.

Michael Packer, who goes by Chase, is one of the two voters’ whose ballot the indictment said Dowless possessed illegally.

In an interview Wednesday, Packer told WBTV he first met Dowless as he was working on his motorcycle near an office Dowless worked out of.

“He came back there talking to us about (the election) asked if we voted or anything and that’s when we went up front and signed the paperwork,” Packer said, referring to paperwork to request an absentee ballot.

“We fill out the paperwork up there getting our ballot sent to the house,” Packer explained. “Fill out our ballots here and we take our ballots up there to him and when we take them up there to him that he would send them off.”

Packer said he didn’t know he had to mail the absentee ballot off himself and didn’t know Dowless could be charged with a crime for sending in someone else’s ballot.

“Just leaving it there with him he took it and that’s the last I ever seen,” Packer said.

On Thursday, the SBI released a list of those indicted and the charges they are facing:

  • Leslie McCrae Dowless: Two counts felony obstruction of justice, perjury, felony solicitation to commit perjury, conspiracy to commit felony obstruction of justice and possession of absentee ballot
  • Lisa M. Britt: Conspiracy to commit felony obstruction of justice, possession of absentee ballot and voting as a felon; $10,000 unsecured bond
  • Ginger S. Eason: Conspiracy to commit felony obstruction of justice and possession of absentee ballot; $10,000 unsecured bond
  • Woody D. Hester: Two counts conspiracy to commit felony obstruction of justice and possession of absentee ballot; $10,000 unsecured bond
  • James R. Singletary: Conspiracy to commit felony obstruction of justice and possession of absentee ballot; $10,000 unsecured bond
  • Jessica H. Dowless: Conspiracy to commit felony obstruction of justice and swearing falsely; $10,000 unsecured bond
  • Kelly Hendrix: Conspiracy to commit felony obstruction of justice and possession of absentee ballot; $10,000 unsecured bond

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