U.S. News

Former Charlotte, N.C., mayor gets 44 months in prison for corruption

CHARLOTTE N.C. (Reuters) - A former mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, was sentenced on Tuesday to nearly four years in U.S. prison after admitting to using public positions in the state’s largest city for personal financial gain, including taking at least $50,000 in bribes.

Former Charlotte, North Carolina Mayor Patrick Cannon makes a statement to the media after pleading guilty to corruption charges in federal court in Charlotte, North Carolina June 3, 2014. REUTERS/Jason Miczek

Patrick Cannon, a Democrat who served on Charlotte City Council before being elected mayor last November, pleaded guilty in June to a public corruption charge. A nearly four-year investigation resulted in his arrest and immediate resignation in March.

Cannon, 47, told Chief U.S. District Judge Frank Whitney he was ashamed of tarnishing the reputation of the city he first began serving in 1993, when at age 26 he became the youngest person in Charlotte city history to win a council seat.

“I’m sorry,” Cannon said. “I let a lot of people down.”

U.S. prosecutors said Cannon secretly solicited and accepted gifts and cash bribes from a strip club owner and two undercover federal agents posing as investors in exchange for using his official influence to help them navigate city government and zoning issues.

Prosecutors said the bribes also included paid travel to Las Vegas and use of a luxury apartment from the undercover agents. In February, Cannon accepted $20,000 in cash delivered to him in the mayor’s office, prosecutors said.

“It’s not a one-time lapse of judgment,” said Anne Tompkins, U.S. attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. “We’d argue his acts became more brazen as time went on.”

Cannon’s attorney, James Ferguson II, said the former mayor’s actions were “not an elaborate scheme, but a flaw,” and asked the judge to weigh the crime against Cannon’s overall record of service.

Cannon had faced a maximum prison term of 20 years and a $250,000 fine on a charge of honest services wire fraud. The charge holds that he deprived the city of his “honest and faithful services” by carrying out a bribery scheme dating back to December 2009.

The judge gave him 44 months in prison, slightly more than the 37-month term sought by prosecutors. Whitney also ordered Cannon to pay a $10,000 fine and forfeit $50,500.

Cannon was released on bond and will be required to report at a later date to a federal prison facility.

“You are a good man, a very good man, but you made some very serious mistakes,” the judge said.

Reporting by Emily Harris; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Will Dunham, Jim Loney and Peter Galloway