On Tuesday, former Charlotte mayor Patrick Cannon pleaded guilty to a federal corruption charge. The official title of the charge is “honest services wire fraud,” which basically means that Cannon accepted bribes in exchange for his political influence. You can see us debating Cannon’s plea deal on a local news station in the video clip below.
The plea agreement was signed in mid-May, but the details of the plea agreement were not released until Monday. As part of the agreement, Cannon appeared in court on Tuesday and pleaded guilty to the single count of honest services wire fraud. He also agreed to cooperate with federal investigators as part of the plea agreement.
The Assistant US Attorney told the courtroom Tuesday that Cannon accepted seven bribes, the amounts of which totaled over $50,000, during a period which began January 2013 and lasted until February 2014. Most of the bribes were taken from FBI agents posing as out-of-town real estate agents.
Some other bribes were taken from a local businessman/strip club owner. According to prosecutors, Cannon began accepting bribes from the strip club owner in 2009, including a payment of $2,000 in 2013. In exchange for the money, Cannon offered to set up meetings between the strip club owner and city workers in connection with re-opening a club which had been closed due to the light rail extension.
While most of the period during which Cannon accepted the bribes was while he was with the City Council, in one instance in February 2014, prosecutors said Cannon accepted a bribe of $20,000 while in the mayoral office. His arrest came weeks later.
A sentencing date has not yet been set, but Cannon could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. As we discussed in our news clip, it is unlikely that he will serve this amount of prison time. More likely, in exchange for Cannon’s cooperation in identifying other names connected with the charges, a judge would reduce the sentence, perhaps to somewhere between three and six years. Before his plea agreement, Cannon faced three charges which carried a potential 50 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.
After entering his plea on Tuesday, Cannon left the courthouse on bond and addressed the media outside. This was his first public address since he was arrested and resigned the mayoral office in March. He admitted his guilt and apologized for betraying the trust of the people of Charlotte, saying “I regret having hurt the city that I love.”
Cannon was first elected to public office in 1993 when he was elected to the Charlotte City Council. He left public office in 2005 but returned to the City Council in 2009. He was elected as Charlotte mayor last November and was sworn in on December 2, 2013. On March 26, 2014, Cannon was arrested on public corruption charges and resigned office the same day. On June 3, 2014, Cannon pleaded guilty to a single federal corruption charge.
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