• Former Mayor Cannon gets house arrest for voting as felon

    By: Mark Becker

    Updated:

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A federal judge ordered former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon to house arrest Thursday and to be monitored electronically after violating the terms of his bond.

    Judge Frank Whitney said Cannon cannot leave his home before he goes to prison later this month.

    RAW VIDEO: Patrick Cannon apologizes for casting ballot

    During his appearance in court Thursday, Whitney said Cannon was in his courtroom "after embarrassing the community again."

    Cannon told the judge, “I'm sorry to be before you again. I never intended to bring myself, my family or my community negative attention.”

    “I apologize to everyone here. The only explanation is the light simply didn’t go off that day. It didn’t occur to me,” Cannon said.

    “I certainly wasn't trying to sneak in. This is something I did without thinking. It wasn't until after I got the call from my probation officer that the light went on,” Cannon said.

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    Former Charlotte mayor Patrick Cannon arrives at federal courthouse


    “I would never do anything on purpose to get myself in trouble,” Cannon told the judge. “I'm embarrassed by it, totally. I please ask you to accept my apology.”

    “You did embarrass the community. It’s very troubling,” Whitney said.

    “I'm aware of the appearance of this. Some could view it as a deliberate defiance of the law. It is not that,” said Cannon’s attorney, James Ferguson.

    “It really is a human error; an honest mistake,” Ferguson said. “We have to deal with the issue of how this looks to the public.”

    “We can guarantee the court there won't be a violation of any condition of his bond,” Ferguson said.

    RAW: Patrick Cannon returns home, backs into garage

    Prosecutors said the government takes this very seriously. They said it goes to the core violation of Cannon’s conviction -- the undermining of the government process.

    Prosecutors said Cannon should have been aware that he was not allowed to vote, given his prominent position.

    “This is a tough issue. I'm troubled by the fact that the defendant is a very sophisticated voter,” said Whitney.

    “If anyone should have known, he should have known,” Whitney said. “Because the defendant should have known, the court needs to do something to make sure Mr. Cannon and I stop meeting like this.”

    After the hearing, Cannon addressed the media outside the courthouse. He apologized for "not thinking" when he cast his ballot in October.

    Conditions behind bars in Morgantown, West Virginia

    “He'll be able to take courses. He'll be able to take drug treatment classes if he qualifies for that. But it's still a prison. He's deprived of his freedom,” said James Wyatt, white collar criminal defense lawyer.

    Wyatt didn’t defend Cannon but he knows how the system works.

    The minimum-security federal prison in Morgantown, West Virginia is a six-hour drive from Charlotte.

    There's no barbed wire out front and Cannon will be among 1,100 inmates living in cells with as many as three roommates.

    They sleep on bunk beds, there are table tennis tables and he'll get about 10 minutes a day for phone calls.

    He will have to wake up at 6 a.m. and there are no photographs allowed on the wall or any personal space.

    Cannon will be given a job if he's deemed medically able earning 12 cents an hour to start.

    That adds up to $250 a year if he works 40 hours every week.

    The prison in Morgantown was rated one of the best federal prisons to serve time in.

    Below is Cannon's full apology:

    “Let me thank the electronic media and print media for being here today. And also thank you for those of you who have been respectful to me and my family. While some haven’t been as nice, others have and we really appreciate that so thank you very much for being so kind as you have been and you know who you are.

    I first want to simply apologize to this community, as I did to the court and the government about what took place in the way of a vote. I want to thank the court for this day, thank the judge for understanding and acknowledging the idea that this was a careless judgment in error on my behalf and something I am not looking forward to ever doing again. It’s the kind of thing that you would not like to see happen right here in our community. People entrust us to be able to do the right thing all the time as best we can.

    Obviously on that day Oct. 30, that was a day that I would normally go each and every year with my wife to vote. I did it without any level of really thinking at that time. It wasn’t until after when I actually heard from my probation officer around 5 p.m. on that day on Election Day to say ‘Hey, did you do that?’ I acknowledged, 'Yeah, I did. What was the problem?' Because I honestly thought that, look, here is the situation where I was just going in and not quite frankly thinking about what I was doing at that particular time.

    As a result, here we are. As a result, the judge, I believe has gone and made a ruling that will put me in a position where I hopefully will not be back here again, per say. But will be back another day. So hopefully this will get past us and I will make my report as you all know on the 18th of this month to Morganton FCI. So God willing, I will see you all on the backend. Thank you all so much and God bless.”

    Experts say judge got it right

    Charles Jones, an attorney who's worked in the community for more than 30 years, said the judge got it right.         

    “I think it was an excellent balance,” Jones said moments after Cannon spoke with reporters.
                      
    The judgment appeared to hit the right note with the few others who were there.

    Reverend Raymond Johnson is a local minister who pointed out that Cannon's approach spared the city a painful legal battle.
                       
    “He could have fought the court and delayed the court and we could've been caught up in this for a couple of years.  He got caught, he admitted and took responsibility.”
                      
    And Jon Barnette, a local civil rights activist whose put himself in the middle of controversial cases, said the judge made the right call.
                       
    “The fact that the judge said there's never been a case like this before kind of validates the fact that let's start new.  Let's take this case and use it as an example for the future, in other cases,” Barnette said.

    Cannon arrived at the federal courthouse in uptown around noon with his wife and attorney.

    "I just want to be respectful to the courts," Cannon said before entering the courthouse.

    PAST COVERAGE: Convicted felon Patrick Cannon casts ballot in Charlotte

    Board of Elections officials confirmed to Channel 9 Patrick Cannon violated state law by illegally voting on Oct. 30 with his wife, Trenna Cannon, at a Ballantyne early voting site.

    "It's an unfortunate incident. It came to our attention that he had voted early," said Mecklenburg County Board of Elections Chairman Michael Dickerson.

    RAW VIDEO: Patrick Cannon arrives at federal courthouse

    Channel 9 learned Thursday morning that Cannon was scheduled to report to a West Virginia prison on Nov. 18 to serve his federal bribery sentence -- three years and eight months for taking bribes -- but depending on what happens in Thursday's hearing, he could lose his freedom sooner.

    Dickerson said the U.S. Attorney's Office provides the elections board with a quarterly list of all felons whose names must be struck from the state's register, but because Cannon's case was not adjudicated until his sentencing in mid-October, his name will not be included until the quarterly report issued at the end of 2014.


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