Columbia, South Carolina ---- United States Attorney Sherri A. Lydon stated today that Benjamin Thomas Samuel McDowell, age 31, of Conway, South Carolina, was sentenced in federal court in Florence for being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition, a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 922(g). United States District Judge Bryan Harwell, of Florence, sentenced McDowell to 33 months’ imprisonment followed by 3 years of supervised release.
Evidence presented at the guilty plea hearing established that the FBI became aware of McDowell’s escalating white supremacist views on social media where McDowell advocated violence against non-whites and even expressed admiration for Dylann Roof and the extreme acts of violence perpetrated by him. Of particular concern to the FBI were McDowell’s comments regarding a particular Jewish Synagogue which implied that this place of worship might be a possible target of violence. McDowell also used social media to communicate an interest in acquiring a gun. In response, the FBI arranged for an undercover agent posing as a member of a white supremacist organization to become acquainted with McDowell for the purpose of determining the nature of his white supremacist leanings and whether McDowell intended to carry out any acts of violence.
McDowell and the undercover agent engaged in multiple recorded conversations during which McDowell reaffirmed his respect for Dylann Roof and spoke generally about committing acts of violence against people of the Jewish and Muslim faiths. McDowell also repeated his desire to obtain a gun. While McDowell never revealed any specific plan to attack a particular location or victim, he did express a general desire to use the gun to commit acts of violence. During further conversations with the undercover FBI agent, McDowell eventually specified that he wanted a .40 caliber Glock pistol and .40 caliber hollow-point ammunition. The agent was able to set up a controlled sale of a .40 caliber pistol and ammunition to McDowell to take place on February 15, 2017. The FBI provided the agent with a .40 caliber Glock which had been rendered “inert” by having the firing pin shaved down so that the gun could not fire. On February 15, the agent met with McDowell and sold him the inert .40 caliber pistol and hollow-point ammunition for $109.00. Soon thereafter McDowell was arrested in the parking lot of a Hampton Inn in Myrtle Beach, during which the pistol and ammunition were recovered from a bag McDowell was carrying. During a post-arrest interview, McDowell admitted to agents that he had purchased the gun and ammunition.
Prior to February 15, 2017, McDowell had been convicted of a felony which prohibits him from possessing a firearm or ammunition.
Following McDowell’s guilty plea, the U.S. Probation Office prepared a presentence investigation report which included McDowell’s sentencing range as calculated according to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines. The Probation Office concluded that McDowell’s guideline imprisonment range was 27 to 33 months. In mitigation, defense counsel emphasized, among other things, McDowell’s mental health issues and limited intellectual functioning. However, he was sentenced to 33 months’ imprisonment, the high end of the guideline range.
The case was investigated by agents of the FBI with the assistance of the Horry County Police Department, the Myrtle Beach Police Department and the Horry County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney A. Bradley Parham of the Florence office is prosecuting the case.
Lance Crick (864) 282-2105