Is it OK to feel sorry for our former mayor now?
The FBI arrested Patrick Cannon. The courts sentenced him. The federal prison system is punishing him. He’s lost his reputation, his political office, his business.
And yet, this week, his already-deflated image shriveled a bit more when the FBI released video showing the bribes that put him behind bars.
If you knew Patrick personally, watching it felt a little like going back to the grave of a newly deceased acquaintance and tracking shoeprints all over the freshly packed dirt.
Don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying the FBI was wrong to release the videos. When allegations of misconduct swirl around government officials, we rightly want as much information as possible. We need to know what has been done in our name, be it a crime or the prosecution of it.
At the time of his 2014 arrest, we all wondered what the videos showed. These days, police seem to get caught on video every week doing something questionable; we wanted to see for ourselves.
The footage leaves little to question. It shows FBI agents doing their job. And it shows our flawed former mayor shamelessly disgracing himself.
“Don’t do it, Patrick!” I wanted to shout at the screen.
But he did. Boy, did he. And now he’s federal prisoner No. 29396-058, serving his time at a federal prison in West Virginia.
His fall robbed Charlotte of its reputation for squeaky-clean local government. (At least by big-city standards, anyway). He embarrassed us on the national stage.
Can we forgive the mayor who wrote the worst public corruption chapter in Charlotte’s history?
We can. And we should.
He is Charlotte’s prodigal son. He could return to us as soon as this summer, in a halfway house or under home detention.
Like that father in the Bible, we should welcome him back with open arms.
I’m not saying that will be easy. Forgiving sounds simple in theory. But man, is it hard in actual life. Messy, even. Old resentments don’t just vanish the second the offending person says, ‘I’m sorry.’ And it’s hard to resist the temptation to judge, to insist that the fallen earn back our lost respect.
Before he was sentenced, Cannon acknowledged that he’d let a lot of people down. He told U.S. District Judge Frank Whitney he was sorry for his crimes, and that he had asked God for forgiveness.
Hoping for leniency, he asked Whitney to consider him in a “spirit of forgiveness,” too. But given the gravity of what he’d done, the public trust he’d abused, the judge dispensed justice instead.
Cannon is rightly paying for his crimes. If I see him around Charlotte after his release, I hope to offer the man a hug and tell him, “Welcome home.”
Nothing more needs to be said.
Eric: 704-358-5145; firstname.lastname@example.org
A column Friday said that N.C. Sen. Phil Berger provided a map of places PayPal did business that had poor records on human rights. It was N.C. Rep. Paul Stam who emailed a map of U.S. states in which PayPal did business that had a similar lack of protections as North Carolina.