State Politics

Former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon indicted on voter fraud

A Mecklenburg County grand jury indicted former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon this week on election fraud stemming from an illegal vote Cannon cast last fall, prosecutors announced Tuesday.

As a convicted felon, Cannon lost his right to vote. But the Observer reported that he cast an early voting ballot on Oct. 30. That’s considered a felony under N.C. law.

At the time of his vote, Cannon had already pleaded guilty and been sentenced for accepting more than $50,000 from FBI undercover agents, but had not yet started serving his time in prison. He now is serving a 44-month sentence at a federal prison camp in West Virginia.

Cannon and his attorneys told a federal judge in November that the former mayor did not realize he was breaking the law when he voted at Ballantyne Commons. “I did this without thinking,” Cannon said. “The light didn't come on that day.”

U.S. District Frank Whitney chastised Cannon for “causing further pain for our community” and placed him under house detention until he reported to Federal Correctional Institution Morgantown later that month.

In a prepared statement released to the Observer, Mecklenburg County District Attorney Andrew Murray said Cannon was indicted Monday. Murray’s office took the case before the grand jury after the State Board of Elections turned over the results of investigation. The office declined further comment.

Murray is a Republican; Cannon a Democrat.

Cannon’s attorney, James Ferguson of Charlotte, questioned the purpose of the indictment, given that his client already is serving a prison sentenced and admitted making a mistake when he voted.

“I’m asking myself the question that many, many people will be asking,” Ferguson said. “Patrick Cannon publicly acknowledged voting inadvertently, that it was a mistake on his part, a mistake he regretted very much. 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?”