In the weeks before his arrest on corruption charges, Patrick Cannon publicly juggled a range of issues as mayor of Charlotte, from negotiating who should run the airport to proclaiming Great American Meatout Day.
In the two months since his arrest: nothing.
Cannon’s name has been removed as chief executive officer on the website of E-Z Parking, a company he helped start 26 years ago. He no longer hosts his weekly radio show. He resigned as mayor.
It’s not that he is hiding.
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Cannon, 47, has been spotted around town, at a restaurant at lunchtime, at his son’s baseball games in the evenings. He texted a former City Council colleague to wish her “Happy Mother’s Day.” He telephoned City Manager Ron Carlee for a copy of his W-2 form – federal agents took Cannon’s original copy when they seized his financial records, phones and computer on March 26, the day he was charged.
Publicly, though, Cannon is keeping a decidedly low profile.
Asked by text message last week what he’s been up to, Cannon told the Observer, “I so appreciate you reaching out. As much as I would love to chat, legal counsel has advised against it. … Take care and God bless.”
Marc Hubbard, a Charlotte club owner and concert promoter, says he has talked with Cannon at least once a week since his arrest.
The two went to elementary school together and college at North Carolina A&T in Greensboro. Hubbard also has had legal issues, including an indictment in Hawaii over a canceled Stevie Wonder concert in 2012. Hubbard denies any wrongdoing in the case and has pleaded not guilty.
“I just reached out to check in on him to see how he’s handling everything,” Hubbard said. “It’s more of a camaraderie kind of thing. I’ve been there.”
Hubbard says Cannon feels isolated, but “he’s hanging in there. He’s waiting for things to play out.”
“When it first happened, he was more down in the dumps,” Hubbard said. “He is more upbeat lately. He maintains his innocence. He’s anxious for his day in court.”
Cannon is accused of taking $48,000 in bribes along with other gifts in return for using his office to help FBI agents who posed as real estate investors. If convicted on all charges, he faces up to 50 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.
Either an indictment or a plea agreement is possible within the coming weeks. But neither prosecutors nor defense attorney James Ferguson would talk about how the case might be resolved or when.
“There’s nothing to share right now,” Ferguson said. Asked how Cannon is doing, he said: “He’s coping with his circumstances, as best one can.”
Wife finds new job
Cannon’s arrest hurt his family financially. After the news broke, his wife lost her job as an agent for real estate firm Allen Tate Co.
Trenna Cannon was not charged with any wrongdoing. But a federal affidavit says she flew with Cannon to Las Vegas to meet with undercover FBI agents. The affidavit says Trenna Cannon thanked an agent over a speakerphone for $1,000 in spending money, part of the bribes that Cannon is accused of accepting.
Trenna Cannon has since found a new job. She is now affiliated with Wilkinson & Associates ERA, according to the N.C. Real Estate Commission. Trenna Cannon could not be reached.
It’s not clear whether Patrick Cannon is working. At the time of his arrest, he was an executive with E-Z Parking, which manages about 20 parking lots uptown. Recently, his name was removed from the website. But no new incorporation documents have been filed with the Secretary of State.
Asked whether Cannon is still affiliated with the company, Vice President Tim Williams referred the Observer to Jeff Feemster, president and chief operating officer. Feemster did not respond to requests for an interview.
Keeping a low profile
The week before his arrest, Cannon had hosted his last Saturday morning radio show – “Aiming with Cannon Live.”
Radio One, which broadcast the show in Charlotte, has not heard from him since.
“In the days after the news broke we reached out to Pat via phone and text and didn’t receive a response,” said Gary Weiss, regional vice president for Radio One. “It was our intention to engage Pat in a discussion of what he felt comfortable doing going forward, in view of the charges. Pat was and is a longtime employee and friend.”
Weiss said he never heard back and isn’t surprised – that Cannon likely has been advised to keep a low profile. He said he has since learned from close associates of Cannon that Cannon felt the time wasn’t right to return.
Cannon also has not made public postings to his Facebook pages since his arrest.
But last June, on Facebook, he offered this advice about adversity:
“Is there somebody, anybody, that knows what it’s like to have to fight on every block to get to the corner only to turn the corner and have to fight through another block for a repeat scenario at the next corner? I’ve had to do this since I was seven years old. However, a look to the hills from where our strength truly comes from never hurts. Be encouraged no matter how rough it gets and keep climbing as best you can ... .”
Maria David, Michael Gordon, Steve Harrison, and Ely Portillo contributed.