Psychiatric report released on former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon

Former Charlotte mayor Patrick Cannon leaves the Federal Courthouse in Charlotte, NC after being sentenced to 44 months on Tuesday, October 14, 2014. Cannon was sentenced in a wide-ranging bribery scheme.
Former Charlotte mayor Patrick Cannon leaves the Federal Courthouse in Charlotte, NC after being sentenced to 44 months on Tuesday, October 14, 2014. Cannon was sentenced in a wide-ranging bribery scheme. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Lawyers for Patrick Cannon told a federal judge that the former Charlotte mayor was suffering from depression and anxiety and was self-medicating with alcohol prior to his sentencing on corruption charges, according to court documents released Monday.

The lawyers gave the judge a letter from a New York psychiatrist as well as testimonials from 32 people in arguing for an 18-month sentence for Cannon.

But last fall U.S. District Judge Frank Whitney ended up sentencing the former mayor to 44 months.

The letters were part of a 74-page sentencing memorandum Whitney ordered released Monday. It had been sealed since before Cannon’s October sentencing. He had been arrested in March and accused of accepting more than $50,000 in bribes from FBI agents and a Charlotte strip club owner.

While Cannon’s lawyers had hoped to redact all mention of Cannon’s medical records from the pre-sentencing report, Whitney refused.

At a federal prison camp in West Virginia, the former mayor has been admitted to a drug and alcohol treatment program that could cut a year off his sentence.

Cannon “sought and received a specific benefit from the court,” Whitney wrote in his order releasing the documents, “and the public has a right to know the basis for that benefit.”

‘Temptations’ came with the job

In the sentencing documents, attorneys James Ferguson and Jacob Sussman paint a sympathetic portrait, from the time Cannon was born to a 19-year-old mother and a father who was in prison to his career in public service.

They describe a life “turned upside down” when his father was murdered when Cannon was 5 but also “a life of service deeply ingrained through participation in the Boy Scouts and service as an altar boy.”

It was the letter from New York City psychiatrist Richard Dudley that contained the biggest revelations. Dudley examined Cannon in New York and talked to Cannon’s wife, Trenna, and to others who know him.

According to the letter, Cannon was in high school when he learned more details about his father’s death. Cannon’s father, Dudley wrote, was a “hustler” who had his life threatened as a result of his activities. He was told if he didn’t show up at a designated place on the night he was killed, the lives of Cannon and his mother, Carmen, would be in danger, Dudley said.

“And so his father showed up/gave up his own life to continue to protect Mr. Cannon and his mother,” Dudley wrote.

Committed to service

Dudley said Cannon’s commitment to public service had always been his motivation. “(T)he breach of the trust placed in him was due to his inability to anticipate and thereby manage the temptations that come with being a public figure, and that the management of such temptations was made all the more difficult by the fact that he was also trying to become a successful entrepreneur ... just like so many extremely successful men who he had come into contact with.”

Dudley said Cannon was “suffering from a clinically significant depression and clinically significant anxiety” and taking prescribed medications for each condition. Despite those drugs, Dudley said the former mayor still showed symptoms “and has continued to self medicate with alcohol.”

Cannon’s attorneys said in court that he had developed a drinking problem.

Soon after beginning his 44-month sentence in West Virginia, Cannon was accepted into the Residential Drug Abuse Treatment Program, or RDAP.

The program normally has a waiting list because a successful completion can carve up to a year off a sentence. In fact, critics say inmates without drug problems often create them in an attempt to qualify for treatment – and a reduction of sentence.

In 1999, former Mecklenburg Elections Director Bill Culp was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for accepting more than $134,000 in kickbacks and bribes in a decadelong voting machine scheme.

During his sentencing, Culp claimed that an addiction to marijuana had clouded his judgment, an assertion that prosecutors openly derided in court. But Culp was admitted into a treatment program and earned his good-conduct discounts.

After 14 months, he was transferred to a Charlotte halfway house.

Lifetime of work cited

In their pre-sentencing memo, lawyers included testimonials from 32 people, including Trenna and Carmen Cannon.

They also included letters from religious leaders such as AME Zion Bishop George Battle Jr. and David Chadwick, pastor of Forest Hill Church, politicians including former Republican City Council members Andy Dulin and Don Reid, and community activists such as Liz Clasen-Kelly, associate director of the Urban Ministry Center.

She described his “genuine concern for people in poverty.”

Like many, former Mecklenburg County commissioner Darrel Williams recounted Cannon’s years of service as a longtime member of the City Council.

“Patrick’s criminal actions do not negate his work for others over the course of many years,” Williams wrote. “This one moment in time does not erase his many years of service.” Staff writer Michael Gordon contributed.

Morrill: 704-358-5059