Patrick Cannon talks about his arrest, the fairness of his sentence and why he is running again | WFAE 90.7
Patrick Cannon had only been mayor of Charlotte for 114 days when he was arrested on federal corruption charges. He resigned that day, March 26, 2014.
“Have you ever been traveling down a road somewhere and you see those eyes staring at you because your car’s headlights are right in their eyes?” Cannon said Thursday in an interview with WFAE and the Charlotte Business Journal. “That was me. A deer in the headlights. At my lowest point ever. Just feeling like that has become your worst nightmare ever and you’re hoping someone pinches you. But then you don’t get that pinch.
Cannon, a Democrat, had accepted $50,000 in cash and gifts from two undercover FBI agents posing as out-of-town real estate developers. As a member of the Charlotte City Council, Cannon asked them if they would invest in a feminine hygiene product business he was trying to start. In exchange, he would get them approvals for a development they wanted to build along a transit line.
The bribes he received included $20,000 in cash in a briefcase after becoming mayor. It took place in the mayor’s office, according to the federal indictment.
Cannon also admitted to taking $2,000 in cash from a local businessman to help him deal with the impacts of building the city’s light rail extension. This predated the FBI sting.
So why did Cannon do it?
“Honestly, there’s no real rhyme or reason why this was done and I make no apologies for it,” he said. “Instead, I want to right my wrongs and prove to people that this isn’t the real Patrick Cannon.”
He said he had rejuvenated in prison and had “worked to find a way to make sure he always thinks about his behavior, that we will move on and things like this will never happen again”.
During Cannon’s sentencing, Federal Judge Frank Whitney said Cannon had “seriously tarnished the image of the city”. Cannon ended up serving nearly two years of his 44-month sentence.
While Cannon was in jail, former city manager Ron Carlee – who worked with Cannon – said in an interview that he thought his sentence was too harsh.
Cannon said he later read Carlee’s comments.
“I finally read about it and honestly, you know, I thought it was admirable of him to suggest that what I got wasn’t fair considering what others didn’t. didn’t get it at all but did things a lot worse,” Cannon said. .
Cannon was referring to former Virginia Governor Bob McDonell, who was sentenced to two years in prison in 2015 for accepting $177,000 in loans and gifts.
“I pretty much took what I was given and stuck to it,” he said.
And while he was in jail, Cannon says he wasn’t thinking about a political future.
“Quite frankly, I didn’t think I would race again,” he said.
Cannon grew up on the west side of Charlotte. He was only 26 when he was first elected to the city council in 1993.
He was once a co-owner of EZ Parking but he sold his shares after being arrested. EZ Parking operated several downtown parking lots, including one owned by the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.
His public comeback began in 2017 when he began hosting a Saturday morning radio show on Old School 105.3.
He says he was encouraged to run. An example is Corrine Mack of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP. She told WBTV she was “happy to have him back in the running.”
“The comments I’ve gotten are, ‘About time,’ Cannon said. “Which made me humble to hear…largely because you don’t know what the reaction will be.
In the interview, Cannon was asked if people told him they forgave him – but can’t vote for him to be on city council again?
“No. I hadn’t heard that before,” he said. “But I imagine someone out there would say that, potentially. But no, I didn’t hear that. No one came to me directly to tell me that.
There are six Democrats vying for four seats at large in the May 17 primary. Dimple Ajmera and Braxton Winston are the only two running Democrats currently in office.
Former council members LaWana Mayfield and James Mitchell are running, and Larken Egleston, the council’s District 1 representative, is also in the running.
Since Cannon’s arrest, the city has changed dramatically: A reckoning on economic mobility. The Keith Lamont Scott protests in 2016, then more protests against police conduct in 2020.
The city also tilted to the left. Cannon, who is 55, says the council was not so ideological in his day. He said previous councils were “moderate” and “willing to work together”.
When Cannon was a member of city council, he supported the creation of a Citizens Review Board in 1997, designed to provide oversight of the Charlotte Mecklenburg police.
But he says the Council today should support the CMPD more.
“There are hints that there is support for the department, but when the cameras came on and the pens started writing, it became a lack of support for the department,” he said. “If you agree with the department, agree with the department, if you disagree with the department, disagree with the department.”
Cannon also criticized the city for leaving the CIAA basketball tournament in Baltimore. Mayor Vi Lyles tries to bring the CIAA back.
Four Republicans are running in the summer general election for the universal seats. And if Cannon gets that far, the GOP has said his past will be a campaign issue.