Crime

Prosecutor defends arresting former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon after election

Patrick Cannon’s prosecutor says the former mayor’s arrest came after the 2013 mayoral election because that’s when investigators “made their case,” not because they feared influencing Charlotte voters.

Cannon was arrested last March, more than four months after he was elected to his first term as mayor. He pleaded guilty to a corruption charge in June. Two weeks ago, the 47-year-old Democrat was sentenced to 44 months in federal prison and a $10,000 fine. Cannon must also forfeit more than $50,000 in assets – the amount of bribes he says he accepted from the FBI and a Charlotte businessman.

U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins referred to Cannon on several occasions during her Tuesday speech to the Charlotte Rotary Club, and the case was brought up again during a question from an audience member.

Since the investigation leading up to Cannon’s arrest had been going on for years, former club President John Snyder wanted to know, why didn’t prosecutors charge Cannon before the election, saving residents the embarrassment of choosing a future felon to lead the city?

In response, Tompkins acknowledged that the U.S. Department of Justice has a policy of trying not to influence local elections with their corruption probes. However, that policy was not the primary factor in the timing of Cannon’s arrest, she said.

Instead, it was Cannon’s acceptance in February of a $20,000 bribe from an undercover FBI agent – a transaction that took place in the mayor’s office and that gave prosecutors what they needed to bring stronger charges, Tompkins said. His arrest came about a month later.

Snyder sat with Edwin Peacock, a Republican who lost the mayor’s race to Cannon, a Democrat.

While thanking Tompkins for Cannon’s prosecution, Snyder said that by attempting not to influence the election, Tompkins’ office had affected the outcome just the same.

Tompkins said she understands the frustration of some voters that Cannon was put in office despite being the target of a federal probe. Later, she told the Observer that had Cannon taken the $20,000 bribe the day before the mayor’s election, prosecutors would have waited to arrest him.

Contacted later, Peacock said his campaign had heard rumors that Cannon was the target of an FBI probe, but didn’t have enough proof to go public with the accusations.

He said Tompkins handled the case correctly by waiting until the evidence against his former opponent grew.

“The legal case against Patrick Cannon trumps the political one,” he said.

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