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Dowless Pleads Not Guilty, Demands Jury Trial

Jan 29, 2021 (Raleigh) The mysterious federal prosecution of Leslie McCrae Dowless took an unexpected turn today in federal court when his attorney, Kathleen Shea informed Judge Terrence Boyle that her client was declining Rule 11 and pleading not guilty to all counts of fraud relating to the mysterious indictment announced, but never served, by Special US Attorney Tamika Moses April 21, 2020.

Dowless was the central figure in 2018’s NC State Board of Election’s investigation that eventually caused the Ninth District Congressional election winner, Mark Harris, to trip up during testimony, perjure himself, resign the seat, and request a new election.

After being publicly humiliated, Harris was later exonerated and Dowless was never federally charged over any of the allegations during the SBE’s February 2019 evidentiary hearing.

Instead, the Social Security Administration is trying to punish Dowless over evidence presented in the hearing, showing that Red Dome Consulting, the political firm managing¬† Harris’ campaign, had paid Dowless more than $100,000 in compensation.

According to the DOJ press release, “Dowless is alleged to have unlawfully obtained Title XVI Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Title II Retirement Insurance Benefits (RIB) by failing to notify the Social Security Administration of his income while receiving those benefits.”

Leslie McCrae Dowless

Special US Attorney Tamika Moses

Meanwhile at Today’s Hearing

After momentarily showing surprise at Dowless’ not-guilty plea, Judge Boyle recovered and asked a series of questions that addressed each of the charges Moses filed against him.

They are theft of government property, social security fraud, and making false statements. If convicted of all three charges, Dowless could face up to 20 years in federal prison and fines of $750,000.

Sources familiar with federal investigation procedures spoke on background with people at Voter Integrity Project and expressed surprise at the severe prosecution and especially at the fact that Moses never bothered to have the indictment served.

One former DOJ employee told VIP the SSA usually just collects back their over-payments and leaves it at that. “I guess they just wanted to make an example out of this guy,” said the source.

Three current or former prosecutors, with more than 45 years combined DOJ experience, told VIP they had never heard of a US Attorney issuing a press release on an indictment without having first notifying the accused of the action.

Despite not being officially notified, Dowless confirmed the court date with the Clerk of Courts and appeared for that first hearing. Had he not shown up in court, he could have been arrested and jailed.

Rather than any jail for this alleged white-collar crime, the May 11 court limited Dowless’ travel to certain counties in North Carolina.

When we asked why she didn’t bother serving the indictment, Ms. Moses declined to comment and directed VIP’s Jay DeLancy to contact the Public Information Officer for the Eastern District NC federal courts.

Instead, DeLancy notified her boss, US Attorney, Robert Higdon, who wrote back.

He declined to comment on the specifics of our question, but added in a letter to DeLancy that (see page 1 here and page 2 here) that our “type of interest and attention is, to me, very healthy and . . . a hallmark of our criminal justice system.”

Justice Delayed?

The state prosecution of Dowless over allegations of illegal absentee ballot fraud has been delayed several times. According to a news report, “Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman, whose office is prosecuting the state charges, predicted Friday a state trial for Dowless this summer.”

The case has been pending for two years.

Elaborating to the media after today’s hearing, Defense Attorney Shea explained that Judge Boyle has put jury trials on hold, so the date of Dowless’ next court appearance is uncertain.

“Even when they do start back with jury trials, the court will start with defendants who are in jail,” she said. “It might be a long time before the Dowless trail begins.”

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