Family says man sentenced to prison for planning 'Dylann Roof-st - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Family says man sentenced to prison for planning 'Dylann Roof-style' attack is not prejudiced

Benjamin McDowell. (Source: J. Reuben Long Detention Center) Benjamin McDowell. (Source: J. Reuben Long Detention Center)
Reporter Audrey Biesk talks with McDowell's family and family friend after hearing. Reporter Audrey Biesk talks with McDowell's family and family friend after hearing.

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - A man that threatened a violent white supremacist attack "in the spirit of Dylann Roof" on a synagogue was sentenced to 33 months in prison by a federal court judge Wednesday.

Benjamin McDowell, 31, was arrested in Myrtle Beach in February 2017 for his connection to the planned attack. 

Judge Bryan Harwell said that he could not ignore McDowell advocating for violence against Jews, non-whites and minorities. The judge allowed McDowell's two grandmothers, a family friend and an HCS mental health counselor that previously mentored McDowell to speak during Wednesday's hearing. 

In addition to the 33 month sentence upon parole, the judge has ordered McDowell must be on home confinement, undergo mandatory drug testing and mental health counseling and vocational training.

Benjamin McDowell admitted to being a part of a KKK clan to JudgeHarwell and said he felt loved by the group, even though it was a hateful lifestyle, but during his time in prison he learned not all people are bad. McDowell looked at the FBI agents in the courtroom and at first said he was mad at them for setting him up, but then thanked them and believes law enforcement did him a service by arresting him.

Family members who spoke during the hearing said they believe the sentence is appropriate considering his mental capacity, though they do not believe McDowell is prejudiced.

“He’s no Dylann Roof. He was raised up with blacks, they are his friends, he’s not no prejudice boy,” said Nancy Clewis, one of McDowell’s grandmothers.

When asked if she thinks McDowell was going to attack Temple Emanu-el, Clewis replied, “No ma’am, he was coached in that. He’s no prejudice kid, he’s a kid. He just got with the wrong people. I told him I loved him and I do love him.”

During the hearing, the prosecutors read a letter written by Rabbi Avi Perets, as he felt too intimidated to attend the sentencing hearing.

The letter said since McDowell's arrest, his congregation will never be the same. There are Holocaust survivors and people are still in fear and they have installed full security that was a huge financial burden.

McDowell's family admitted he is a follower and not a leader, he needs mental help, and should be under their supervision and care.

“I felt bad for him. Benji really is a good boy,” family friend Buddy Floyd said. “I know he’s done things he shouldn’t do, he’s just a big ol’ teddy bear. I hope they get him some mental help because he really does need help mentally. His childhood and I think some of the stuff happened was because he was led to think certain things, like the day he got caught he thought he was going to Alabama to go to work and get a job, and he ended up in jail.”

McDowell has 14 days to appeal the sentence. He is in the custody of the U.S. Marshals until he is transferred to the bureau of prisons. While there, additional screening will determine what facility McDowell will be detained in.

Copyright 2018 WMBF News. All rights reserved.

  • Local NewsLocalMore>>

  • Bodies recovered of mental health patients nearly 24 hours after drowning

    Bodies recovered of mental health patients nearly 24 hours after drowning

    Wednesday, September 19 2018 7:18 PM EDT2018-09-19 23:18:03 GMT
    Nicolette Green (Source: Donnela Green-Johnson)Nicolette Green (Source: Donnela Green-Johnson)

    A Horry County Sheriff's Office van was swept away in flood waters resulting in two female mental health detainees drowning in the Little Pee Dee River Tuesday night. 

    More >>

    A Horry County Sheriff's Office van was swept away in flood waters resulting in two female mental health detainees drowning in the Little Pee Dee River Tuesday night. 

    More >>
  • #ChantsUp: Baby representing CCU before being born

    #ChantsUp: Baby representing CCU before being born

    Wednesday, September 19 2018 6:10 PM EDT2018-09-19 22:10:30 GMT
    (SOURCE: CCU)(SOURCE: CCU)

    MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A recent Coastal Carolina University graduate saw a familiar signal from her unborn baby during a 26-week checkup ultrasound.  Courtney Mahoney said she went in to get extra measurements done on her unborn daughter and could not really see the screen during the ultrasound. When the photos were printed off and handed to her and her husband they saw a familiar signal from their Alma Mater, #ChantsUp.  "I noticed that the baby was doin...

    More >>

    MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A recent Coastal Carolina University graduate saw a familiar signal from her unborn baby during a 26-week checkup ultrasound.  Courtney Mahoney said she went in to get extra measurements done on her unborn daughter and could not really see the screen during the ultrasound. When the photos were printed off and handed to her and her husband they saw a familiar signal from their Alma Mater, #ChantsUp.  "I noticed that the baby was doin...

    More >>
  • Crews rescue men, dog from flooded Lumberton home

    Crews rescue men, dog from flooded Lumberton home

    Wednesday, September 19 2018 6:02 PM EDT2018-09-19 22:02:40 GMT
    A dog was rescued in Robeson County on Tuesday. (Source: WMBF News)A dog was rescued in Robeson County on Tuesday. (Source: WMBF News)

    Two men were recovering Tuesday after being rescued from their Lumberton home as flood waters rose.

    More >>

    Two men were recovering Tuesday after being rescued from their Lumberton home as flood waters rose.

    More >>
Powered by Frankly