After a nearly four-hour hearing, Patrick Cannon learned his fate today on public corruption charges. Judge Frank Whitney sentenced Cannon to 44 months in prison and fined him $10,000. Cannon had already agreed to pay $50,500 in restitution for the money he received in his bribery scheme. He will report to prison at a later date.
Cannon appeared to wipe tears from his face as he left the courthouse. Minutes earlier his supporters filed out somberly following a hearing that stretched on for about two hours as Cannon’s defense attorneys, James Ferguson and Henderson Hill, presented witnesses and testified that Cannon’s corruption was aberrant behavior, and that Cannon was remorseful for his actions. Cannon also spoke on his behalf.
“I am sorry for my wrongdoing, sorry to my family, to the people of Charlotte,” Cannon said. ” I let a lot of people down, a lot of people. The last several months have been the worst in my entire life. I continue to ask for forgiveness of you, of the city, of all those who I have hurt.”
“I love Charlotte. I know my misconduct stains my words,” he said.
Ferguson told Whitney, “The decision that you are called upon to make today will have extraordinary impact on a lot of lives today.”
Witness Dr. Mildred Wright testified that she knew Cannon’s mother and was an old family friend. She recalled his days at Our Lady of Perpetual Help and as an elementary school student. She said as a young boy Cannon was eager to serve the community. On the evening he was arrested, Wright said Cannon came to her house, put her head on her should and cried “I’m so sorry.”
Wright told him, “This is not the end. This a hard step, but you can make this. Rectify this in a gracious way and come back.”
Another character witness Leonard Wheeler testified by video about Cannon’s life as a good father and husband.
Ferguson and Hill also asked for leniency because Cannon resigned and assisted prosecutors. They said the shame and guilt was enough punishment, and it was aberrant behavior.
US Attorney Anne Tompkins acknowledged Cannon’s cooperation, but said it was not unusual behavior.
“His conduct became more brazen as time went on,” she said.
Tompkins only recommended that Cannon be sentenced to 37 months in prison.
Judge Whitney disagreed. Throughout his sentencing Whitney referenced Cannon’s “fall from grace.” Point by point he addressed the defense’s request for leniency. He cited other elected state officials who stepped down before or immediately after they arrested. He said although Cannon cooperated with federal investigators he had not provided substantial information. He also debunked the defense’s assertion that since Charlotte’s city government is city manager and county council with a weak mayor that Cannon only had a certain amount of influence on city government.
“This is a tragic day, sentencing is always tragic. Yours is a little different because of how far you’ve fallen,” Whitney said. “You turned your healthy ambition for a better life for you and your family into raw greed.”