The Patrick Cannon Watch has officially begun.
Any day now, the only mayor in Charlotte history jailed for official corruption should be coming home. The exact timing is unclear. His attorneys are not talking. Neither are some of his friends. Former tourism and convention exec Tim Newman, who reportedly made the 375-mile drive north to Morgantown (W.Va.) Federal Correctional Institution to visit Cannon, declined to discuss Cannon’s itinerary when reached by phone this week.
Cannon, as we all recall, was charged with public corruption after taking more than $50,000 in bribes, mostly from undercover FBI agents posing as out-of-town real estate developers. The last installment – and the biggest chunk – changed hands in the mayor’s Government Center office. Cannon, a Democrat, entered prison on Nov. 18, 2014, to start a 44-month sentence.
That number has been misleading from the start. The U.S. Bureau of Prison lists Cannon’s release date as Jan. 25, 2017 when he will have completed slightly more than half of the original term.
Based on policies and incentives available to all federal prisoners, Cannon actually could be back in a Charlotte-area halfway house or, more likely, his Ballantyne home before the start of Panthers’ NFL season.
At the very least, Cannon can expect to celebrate his 50th birthday on Nov. 27 in far happier surroundings.
▪ Federal prisons shave 54 days off an inmate’s sentence for every year of good behavior. In Cannon’s case, that meant a potential overall cut of more than a half a year – or about 198 days – from his time.
▪ Shortly after his incarceration on Nov. 18, 2014, he was admitted into the prison camp’s Residential Drug Abuse Program, or RDAP, to confront a drinking problem that reportedly surfaced after his arrest. Once he completed the program, Cannon cut another year off his sentence.
▪ The prison system can also allow Cannon to serve the final 10 percent of sentence – a little over four months – in home confinement, a Charlotte-area halfway house, or some combination of both.
All that arithmetic assumes that Cannon has followed the rules for the past 21 months. Any breach of prison regulations would extend his release date.
As part of his sentence, Cannon also will serve two years of probation and continue to pay off what remains of a $10,000 fine. And, contrary to the ballot mess he left on his way out of town, Cannon has lost his right to vote. Really. Until it’s restored, the longtime Charlotte City Council member can’t seek a return to elected office.
As for Cannon’s next address, Greg Forest, the retired head of the U.S. Probation Office in Charlotte, says an inmate with Cannon’s background is far more likely to receive home detention. County records indicate that Cannon and his wife Trenna still own their house in south Charlotte, and Forest says Cannon doesn’t need the halfway house programs that help an inmate ease back into the free world.
When Cannon arrives back in Ballantyne, probation officers will be waiting with a homecoming present – an electronic ankle bracelet. He will wear it until Jan. 25. Under the terms of his release, Cannon can leave his house only for doctor’s visits, religious services and work.
Cannon no longer owns a parking business, but he still needs to be gainfully employed. “He can’t just be Patrick Cannon,” says Forest. “He has to get a job.”
If he doesn’t within the allotted time, or is caught violating any other provision of his release, he can be placed back in the custody of the federal prison system to finish out his sentence.
On Jan. 25, Cannon becomes a former inmate as well as a ward of the probation office for the next two years. Once his supervised release expires, and, in Forest’s words, Cannon goes “off paper,” he gets his vote back.
That would be in 2019, when, coincidentally, Charlotte voters will be electing a new city council.