Disgraced former Mayor Patrick Cannon will be let out of federal prison this week – to face charges in Mecklenburg County on Wednesday over the illegal vote he cast in November 2014.
Cannon will be arraigned on voter fraud charges at noon Wednesday in Courtroom 5350 in the Mecklenburg County Courthouse.
The Democrat resigned from office after he was arrested two years ago for accepting more than $50,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents. He lost the right to vote when he pleaded guilty to those charges that June.
However, Cannon, by then a convicted felon, cast an early ballot in the November 2014 election – a vote first reported by the Observer. The ballot was never counted. Cannon said he voted out of habit.
“I did this without thinking,” he told U.S. District Judge Frank Whitney soon afterward. “The light didn’t come on that day.”
Whitney, who two weeks earlier had sentenced Cannon to 44 months in a federal prison in the bribery case, ordered the former mayor placed under house arrest until he reported to a West Virginia detention facility.
Cannon entered prison 12 days later. He is scheduled to be released in January, though legal experts say Cannon could be back in Mecklenburg County – either in a halfway house or under home detention – as early as this summer.
Cannon was in prison for more than three months when he was indicted on state voter fraud charges in February 2015. Mecklenburg District Attorney Andrew Murray, a Republican, said at the time that his office took the case to a grand jury after an investigation by the state Board of Elections.
After announcing Cannon’s arraignment on Monday, Murray’s office declined further comment.
James Ferguson, a member of Cannon’s defense team, said after the indictment that the state action was excessive.
“Patrick Cannon publicly acknowledged voting inadvertently ... A federal judge who heard the case decided that the appropriate sanction was to place him under house arrest. So what is the purpose of this indictment under these circumstances?” Ferguson said.
Prominent Charlotte defense attorney David Rudolf said at the time that Cannon would likely receive probation. “He’s mostly guilty of stupidity,” Rudolf said.
However, other court observers said a conviction could impact Cannon’s chances of early release.
As a result of the Cannon voting case, federal judges in Charlotte now specifically remind defendants pleading guilty that they are losing the right to vote.