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Suspect in ballot fraud case freed after arraignment

FILE - In this Dec. 5, 2018 file photo, Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. poses for a portrait outside of his home in Bladenboro, N.C. The North Carolina political operative at the center of a ballot fraud scandal is facing criminal charges for his activities in the 2016 elections and the Republican primary in 2018. Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019, that Dowless was arrested after grand jury indictments alleging illegal possession of absentee ballots and obstruction of justice. (Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP, File)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The top suspect in ballot-fraud allegations in the still-vacant North Carolina congressional election is free again after a surprise court appearance on felony charges.

Wake County District Attorney Lorrin Freeman said Leslie McCrae Dowless was arraigned Tuesday, almost three weeks before it was scheduled. Freeman says Dowless was scheduled to be in court March 25. But documents Dowless got after posting a $30,000 bond last week said he needed to show up Tuesday.

Freeman says Dowless waived his right to be considered for a court-appointed attorney and is keeping his private lawyer.

Dowless was arrested last week on seven felonies accusing him of illegally collecting ballots during last year’s primary election and the 2016 elections.

A new election in the 9th congressional district starts with primaries in May.

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