NIAGARA, N.Y. (Gray News) - Three days before Elias Q. Dowdy turned 18, he raped a classmate at her Niagara home on May 28, 2018.
Now 19, Dowdy pleaded guilty to third-degree rape on May 23. Even so, his plea came with an agreement that would keep him out of prison.
Inside Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon’s courtroom on Wednesday, Dowdy received a one-year interim probation sentence.
Sheldon granted him a chance to earn youthful offender status, which would sealed Dowdy’s case and prevent it from showing up on his criminal record. If he violates his probation, however, Dowdy could serve up to four years in prison.
Tensions boiled over at the end of the 2018-19 school year. Much to the displeasure of the victim and her mother, Dowdy had been allowed to remain a student at the Niagara Wheatfield Senior High School.
Even after his guilty plea on May 23, Dowdy remained within the same building as his victim.
On May 31, about 100 students staged a walkout in support of the victim.
“I don’t think anyone should have to go to school and see the person who’s ruined/changed their life,” the victim told The Buffalo News a day before the walkout.
The walkout led to the suspension of many of the students who participated, but it also convinced the school district to finally remove Dowdy from the school.
On June 5, parents met with the school board and demanded the resignation of Principal Michael Mann. He was placed on leave the next day.
Superintendent Daniel G. Ljiljanich didn’t believe Mann was right to suspend the students who took part in the walkout.
Dowdy’s attorney David E. Blackley maintained his client never harassed the victim during the school year and said there was no protection order until Dowdy pleaded guilty.
Even so, the victim’s mother revealed online behavior by Dowdy’s family that displeased the Judge Sheldon.
"Elias Dowdy raped my daughter, admittedly raped my daughter, and has continued to torment her ever since," the mother told the court.
She told Sheldon about a social media post Dowdy’s brother had made that claimed the sex was consensual.
“That girl had the right to say no ... it was consensual but they’re making him out to be a monster. All them people need to take a nosedive off a bridge,” the social media post read.
Disgusted, Sheldon instructed Dowdy to “put a muzzle” on his friends and family.
"You need to tell them the truth, that it wasn't consensual. Quite frankly, if I sentenced you today, I would deny you youthful offender status," Sheldon told Dowdy. "The only person who's getting into trouble is you, and it would help a lot if you told them the truth."