Grand Strand Crime

Court docs: Benjamin McDowell waives right to appeal, letter from Rabbi, declaration from doctor

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) - Benjamin McDowell, the Conway man who was sentenced to serve 33 months on Wednesday for planning a Dylann Roof-style attack, has waived his right to appeal his sentence. 

Court documents from the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, Florence division, show McDowell waived his right to appeal on Wednesday. 

Court documents also show that Rabbi Avraham Perets, of Myrtle Beach's Temple Emanu-El, read a letter in court on Wednesday detailing the impact of McDowell's actions on those who attend the synagogue. "When we discovered that Mr. McDowell was planning to attack our synagogue we were in shock and disbelief that someone would even consider to hurt our innocent people," the letter says in part. "Mr. McDowell's actions caused us tremendous mental anguish and distress. We never met Mr. McDowell and the thought that he wanted to come and start shooting at our innocent members for no reason whatsoever is very disturbing."

Perets ends this letter by saying "in summary, this heinous act has changed our Temple community lives forever. We hoped that racism and anti-Semitism were matters of the past. Mr. McDowell's actions proved that we were wrong, and it still exists in the 21st century. I think that Mr. McDowell is a dangerous man and I hope that he will be educated in jail and make the transformation to a peaceful citizen." 

Court documents also include a declaration from a doctor who began working with McDowell when McDowell was a child. Dr. Charles L. Conant, III, says in part "when I met Benjamin, he was eight or nine. He could not read. He did not know letters or the sounds associated with letter. I had recently purchased a learning to read program to assist children with reading issues. Benjamin worked with the program and learned to read over the years. His reading comprehension was never good, but over time he could understand the basic of a passage or an article."

Conant also says in his declaration "due to my good relationship with Benjamin, Benjamin would seek me out to talk to me. I saw that there was a lot of negativity in Benjamin's life, so I tried to be positive with Benjamin. I learned a lot about his personal life. I knew that Benjamin felt abandoned by his father. Joann, Benjamin's mom, had limited cognitive abilities herself. She was not equipped to handle a child with the problems Benjamin presented. In my opinion, Joann did the best she could with Benjamin, but she needed to keep him a baby. She needed to be needed by him. I do not think this aided Benjamin's emotional growth. Over time, this caused Benjamin to get frustrated with Joann, leading to conflict between the two of them."

"Benjamin could get angry and lose his temper. Benjamin struggled to keep himself in control of his emotions. When he became angry or frustrated, he would last out at others, at his environment, and at himself. I recall that at one point, he was on home bound instruction because of his temper. Benjamin was prescribed different medications to help him control himself," Conant's declaration also says. "I know that Benjamin used illegal drugs, and I know that Benjamin went to prison. He has committed another crime and there are consequences for that. In my opinion, Benjamin functions intellectually at about a third or fourth grade level. Socially and emotionally, he functions as a nine or 10 year old would. I hope that during his incarceration Benjamin can get mental health treatment in a therapeutic environment, if that is possible." 


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