News & OpinionWeekly News Roundup

5 Things To Know: McRae Dowless Sentenced to 6 Months

...and four more stories from Aug. 29-Sept. 4, 2021

McRae Dowless
McRae Dowless poses with Mark Harris before Dowless faced allegations of election fraud.

McRae Dowless Sentenced to 6 Months

McRae Dowless, the Republican political operative at the center of the 9th Congressional District scandal that took place in the race between Democrat Dan McReady and Republican Mark Harris in 2018, has been sentenced to serve six months in prison and pay back thousands of dollars in restitution. He will report to prison in December.

Dowless was accused of paying workers to illegally collect absentee ballots from voters during the 2018 congressional race and was considered a “person of interest” in the investigation over mishandled absentee ballots. The North Carolina Board of Elections refused to certify Harris’ win due to evidence of fraud, and a new election was held.

In June 2021, McRae Dowless pleaded guilty to theft of government property and federal unemployment fraud that stemmed from collecting Social Security benefits while earning income from political campaigns. He faced a maximum combined sentence of 15 years. On Thursday, he was sentenced to serve six months in prison and ordered to pay $8,599.10 in restitution. 

McRae Dowless and others still face charges stemming from his involvement in the balloting controversy of 2018, as well as Harris’ 2016 race. He may stand trial for those charges before the year’s end. 

COVID-19 Numbers Stabilizing, but Hospitals Still Strained

During a press conference on Friday, Mecklenburg County Deputy Public Health Director Raynard Washington said there has been some stabilization in local COVID-19 metrics, but warned against getting too comfortable, as test-positivity rates remain well above the county’s goal and area hospitals are still strained. 

Washington pointed out that there is an average of 450 Mecklenburg County residents hospitalized due to COVID-19 on any given day, an overwhelming majority of whom are unvaccinated. During another press conference held on Thursday, officials with the three largest health-care systems in the area — Atrium Health, Novant Health, and Caromont Health — stated that 92% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients and 97% of those on life support in area hospitals at that point were unvaccinated.

McRae Dowless
A graph showing how many hospitalized COVID-19 patients as of Wednesday were unvaccinated.

At Friday’s press conference, Washington emphasized that more young people are now dying of the virus. While less than 20% of deaths in Mecklenburg County have been in the 20-59 age range throughout the pandemic, more than 40% of deaths over the last month have happened in that same group, including four recent deaths among residents aged between 20-39. 

Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris also spoke at Friday’s press conference, urging residents to continue to follow the local mask mandate. “It’s a simple thing to do and we’re not asking you to do it forever, we just need you to do it now,” she said. 

According to the most recent data released by Mecklenburg County Public Health on Friday, the county had seen an increase of 3,559 COVID-19 cases and 26 deaths due to the virus since the same time last week. According to more in-depth data that covered cases through Wednesday, there had been an average of 536 newly confirmed cases in the county per day over the past week, a slight decrease compared to the previous two weeks. The test-positivity rate had also seen a slight decrease to 13.1%, though that is still much higher than the county’s goal of less than 5%. 

County and City Bring Siloam School Closer to Goal

The Charlotte Museum of History (CMoH) announced Monday that Mecklenburg County and the City of Charlotte together pledged $160,000 to support its Save Siloam School Project, putting the museum right at two-thirds of its $1-million fundraising goal. 

Mecklenburg County pledged $150,000 toward the project, giving $15,000 each year for the next 10 years as an arts-and-culture investment targeted to reduce racial disparities. The city will give $10,000 from its current fiscal year budget to support architectural services needed to move the Siloam School to its future location at CMoH.

Advocates for the Siloam School project (from left): Vi Lyles, Larken Egleston, Greg Phipps and Andria Focht, present a check to the Save the Siloam School Project in January 2019. (Photo by Daniel Coston/Charlotte Museum of History)

The new funding is in addition to municipal funds provided to support the project — $125,000 from the county and $50,000 from the city in fiscal year 2019. To date the Save Siloam School Project has raised $660,000 in cash, pledges and in-kind donations to save the historic school, one of the last remaining Rosenwald-era schools for Black children in the Charlotte area.

Once preserved, the Siloam School will become a permanent community resource devoted to history education and programming. It will be the only preserved Rosenwald school in Mecklenburg County devoted to history education and history programming.

“I’m so pleased to receive this vote of confidence from the county and city for the work we are doing to preserve and share Charlotte’s full and complex history,” said Adria Focht, CMoH’s president and CEO, in a release Monday. “That means lifting up stories that have often gone untold, including the story of the Siloam School — built and paid for by a rural African American community that was determined to provide a quality education for their children despite segregation.”

Large Discharge of Wastewater Found in North Charlotte Creek

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services announced on Wednesday that staff had discovered an illegal discharge of wastewater into Little Sugar Creek due to an accident at an energy generation facility located nearby in north Charlotte. According to a release, staff responded to a report of a discharge to Derita Branch, a tributary to Little Sugar Creek, and found that it had originated from Orbit Energy Charlotte, LLC, located on Johnson Road near Derita Creek Park. 

Investigators believe an operational failure at the facility resulted in a discharge of approximately 230,000 gallons of wastewater, with the majority contained in basins located on site. The discharge was stopped upon discovery, but not before an undetermined quantity overflowed the basin and entered Derita Branch and Little Sugar Creek, causing a fish kill in Derita Branch and a portion of Little Sugar Creek downstream of the confluence.

According to the release, “Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services is taking action to ensure that Orbit Energy Charlotte, LLC restores areas negatively impacted by the discharge and implements measures necessary to prevent future discharges.”

Man Killed in Apparent Road Rage Incident

Loved ones say a man who was shot and killed while driving on I-85 on Saturday was simply driving to a birthday party when he fell victim to road rage. Shortly before 6 p.m. on Saturday, police responded to a shots-fired call on I-85 near Statesville Road, where they found 54-year-old Carleton Cartier suffering from a gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead on the scene. An investigation led them to identify a 24-year-old man as the suspect, whom they later tracked down and arrested after a vehicle pursuit. 


Detectives are also carrying out a death investigation after a man and woman were found dead on Plum Street in the Derita area of north Charlotte on Thursday morning. As is standard procedure for any sudden or unexpected death, homicide detectives are currently investigating, though it’s unclear at this time how the two died. 

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