Patrick Cannon rarely stood alone during the defining moments of his 20 years in politics.
In campaign photographs over the years, Trenna Cannon was often at her husband’s side. She accompanied him to victory parties after his elections to City Council, then as mayor of Charlotte. She also flew with him last year to Las Vegas where he accepted $6,000 in bribes, part of an undercover FBI sting that led to his downfall.
Trenna Cannon, 45, is not accused of any wrongdoing. Whether she knew at the time that her husband was breaking the law has not been publicly disclosed. She has declined to talk with reporters.
At his sentencing hearing in federal court Tuesday, she stood once again with him – this time figuratively. She sat two rows back, Cannon’s mother beside her.
When Patrick Cannon broke down in tears after a confession to the judge about the impact his crimes will have on their children, Trenna Cannon cried, too. She wept when he described the values they have tried to instill in their 15-year-old daughter, a track-and-field athlete who wants to be a veterinarian, and their 12-year-old son, who also loves sports.
Cannon told the judge that he asked their son just that morning what the “four haves” are and his son answered: “Have respect. Have responsibility. Have manners. And have fun.”
That’s the Cannon family mantra, something Trenna Cannon wrote about on Facebook three years ago. Every day, she wrote, they tell their children they love them and remind them of those four things.
Soon it will be up to Trenna Cannon to do it without her husband.
According to a federal affidavit, Trenna Cannon accompanied Patrick Cannon to Las Vegas in July 2013 on a trip paid for by undercover FBI agents masquerading as real estate investors. When the Cannons arrived at their hotel, an agent gave Cannon $1,000 in cash as Trenna Cannon stood nearby.
The next day, after Cannon met with the agents, he telephoned Trenna Cannon and put her on speakerphone. She thanked the agent who gave them the money, the affidavit said. The agent then gave Patrick Cannon $5,000 more.
Some legal experts interpreted the fact that Trenna Cannon was mentioned in the affidavit as implicit pressure on Cannon to plead guilty. When he did plead guilty in June, there was no mention of her in the new government documents.
Trenna Cannon also was involved in another situation with a businessman who gave her husband a $2,000 bribe. The Observer identified the man as strip club owner Slim Baucom.
Baucom told the Observer he let the Cannon family stay in his Lake Wylie home rent-free in early 2005. They were waiting to close on a new home in Ballantyne. A source told the Observer that Baucom also bought some furniture for their new house at an auction.
A native of High Point, Trenna Harrington married Patrick Cannon on Oct. 19, 1996, three years after he entered politics. She has worked off and on as a real estate broker.
After his arrest, the Allen Tate firm notified the state that she was no longer affiliated with the company. She subsequently took a position with Wilkinson & Associates ERA, and is now with Carolinas Metro Reality in Ballantyne.
It will likely be up to her to support the family. Cannon resigned his position at the E-Z Parking company he helped start 26 years ago.
On Tuesday, more than 20 family members and friends accompanied Trenna Cannon to court. One relative described her as a strong woman who is handling her ordeal well. The judge noted that Patrick Cannon has a supportive network of family and friends, and another relative said that safety net extends to Trenna Cannon.
When time came to leave the courthouse, they surrounded her, forming a human shield against an onslaught of media cameras.
In Facebook postings, Trenna Cannon has written occasionally about her faith and about attending revivals and worshipping at Elevation Church. In a 2011 online post, she offered prayers for “families that have lost loved ones and families that are facing challenging tough times and having to make tough life changing decisions. May you look to God for strength, comfort and peace.”
Friends say they are now praying for her.
Researcher Maria David contributed.