A federal judge has ordered the release of some of the documents he used to sentence former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon for taking bribes.
At the request of the Observer, U.S. District Judge Frank Whitney agreed Tuesday to allow the public to see the sentencing memorandum prepared by Cannon’s attorneys. Despite objections from Cannon’s attorneys, the former mayor’s medical records were included under the judge’s ruling. Whitney also ordered the release of letters written in Cannon’s behalf.
Last year, Whitney sentenced the Democrat to 44 months for accepting more than $50,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents. Cannon entered a federal prison camp in West Virginia on Nov. 17.
Whitney’s ruling marks the second time this month a local judge has waived a longstanding rule in the Western District of North Carolina that keeps sentencing memos secret. Legal experts say the rule is the only one of its kind in the country’s federal judicial circuits.
On June 8, U.S. Magistrate Judge David Keesler granted a request by the Observer and other media to unseal the sentencing memo and supporting letters for David Petraeus. The former CIA director and military chief of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan pleaded guilty to sharing military secrets with his biographer and former lover, Paula Broadwell of Charlotte.
Under an agreement with prosecutors, Petraeus pleaded guilty and avoided jail time. Keesler sentenced him to two years probation and a $100,000 fine. The case remains open.
Observer attorney Jon Buchan said the judges’ orders demonstrates their “respect for the critical value of letting the public get a full view of the criminal justice process.”
Buchan said he hopes the courts will reconsider the local rule and require that sentencing memos be made public.
Both court orders allowed defense attorneys to remove personal information such as addresses, phone numbers and emails from the unsealed records.
But Whitney denied a defense request to withhold Cannon’s medical records. In prison, Cannon was 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,” the judge wrote, “and the public has a right to know the basis for that benefit.”
Jake Sussman, who was part of the defense teams for both Cannon and Petraeus, said Tuesday it would be next week before the redacted Cannon documents will be ready for release.