|Cannon pleads guilty to corruption|
|Ex-mayor faces 20 years; investigation continues|
|Published Tuesday, June 3, 2014 3:30 pm|
Former Charlotte mayor Patrick Cannon did the expected on Tuesday by pleading guilty to federal charges of corruption.
He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and $250,000 fine.
A four-year investigation, which involved undercover agents posing as businessmen with interests in Charlotte, found that Cannon, 47, schemed to defraud the public by accepting bribes of cash and other gifts in exchange for use of his influence as an elected official.
A federal criminal bill of information charging the former mayor with one count of honest services wire fraud and a filed plea agreement were unsealed on June 2. Cannon appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge David S. Cayer the following day to formally enter a guilty plea.
“Through his actions, Cannon betrayed the trust of his constituents and his peers, compromised the integrity of our local government and damaged Charlotte’s good reputation,” said Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. attorney for the Western District of North Carolina during a press conference following Tuesday’s hearing.
“Cannon will now be held accountable… for putting personal gain over the greater good,” she said. “As we move forward, let one message be clear: My office will continue to investigate allegations of public corruption and go after anyone who uses public office as a means of getting rich. Charlotte has no room for corrupt politicians.”
Arriving with his legal team, attorneys James Ferguson and Henderson Hill, Cannon was greeted at the federal courthouse by dozens of media, including reporters from outlets as far as New York. After nearly falling to the ground amid the commotion, he walked into the courtroom around 10:45 a.m. His hearing, which lasted about 20 minutes, began nearly an hour later.
With a somber face, Cannon stood straight with his head high as the judge read through the charges against him, seven instances in which he accepted bribes – including $50,000 - $70,000 in cash, use of a luxury apartment, and an all-expense paid trip to Las Vegas - in exchange for various favors from urging a council member to intervene with city officials on behalf a strip club owner to giving false presentations as mayor pro tem and making special promises to a undercover agents posing as businessmen.
Cannon told the judge he was guilty as charged.
After entering his plea, Cannon addressed reporters in front of the courthouse. Reading a written statement, he said he was sorry.
“I regret having hurt the city that I love,” he read. “I understand the anger, frustration and disappointment that my actions have caused. I can only hope that the life that I live from now on will reflect both my remorse and my desire to still make a positive impact upon our city.”
It is unclear how much time Cannon will serve or how much money he will be ordered to pay in restitution. He will be sentenced at a later date and has waived his right to an appeal or possibility of parole.
As part of his plea deal agreement, Cannon agreed to forfeit profits made from the bribes he received, which included thousands of dollars in cash seized from his home.
Although it appears that the case against Cannon is closed, the U.S. Department of Justice has made it clear that their investigation is active and ongoing – meaning additional charges could be brought against others.
“As the city begins to heal, citizens should be reassured, this investigation does not end with today’s guilty plea,” said John A. Strong, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in North Carolina. “FBI agents will continue to follow the trail of evidence in this case and look into related allegations as the investigation moves forward.”
If more charges are filed, Cannon could be called in to testify at trial against defendants and is obligated by the terms of his plea deal to continue cooperating with federal investigators at their request.
In fact, when the judge asked prosecutors for bond recommendations, they agreed that it would be beneficial to them if Cannon stayed out of jail until sentencing so that he could continue cooperating with their investigation.
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