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Patrick Cannon

by RAD BERKY / NBC Charlotte

Blogged by Rebecca Booker

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ex-Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon pleaded guilty today to a federal public corruption charge in which he took bribes in exchange for helping developers.

The charge that could put him in prison for 20 years.

Cannon made his way into the federal courthouse around 11 a.m. with a group of reporters and photographers following him in.

At one point, Cannon tripped and fell over a photographer near a park bench in front of the courthouse. He was helped up by his lawyer and quickly escorted into the courthouse.

The charge basically means Patrick Cannon used his political position for his own personal gain.

NBC Charlotte’s Rad Berky obtained the document filed Monday morning that sets the stage for a guilty plea.

The bill of information was unsealed at the courthouse Monday morning. It was filed by federal prosecutors in lieu of a formal grand jury indictment.

The plea agreement has been sealed since May 12.  Criminal Defense Attorney Melissa Owen says that is an indication that Cannon has already started cooperating with investigators.

“They want to know who else he was working with.  Who else was committing crimes,” said Owen.

The bill of information specifically mentions a local businessman who had had a strip club that was in the path of the light rail extension project.

Governor Pat McCrory said he found the allegations, “shameful”.

That Blue Line extension is crucial to the future of economic development and transportation needs of not just Charlotte but North Carolina.”

The bill also indicates Cannon is accused of taking some 70 in-cash bribes– much more than was earlier indicated by the FBI.

Cannon faces a maximum of 20 years behind bars when he is sentenced but Owen expects that when federal sentencing guidelines are factored in, it will be considerably less.

“The range the judge is going to be starting at, as long as there are no problems between now and the day of sentencing is most likely going to be 46 to 57 months,” said Owen.

Our Rad Berky reports from the scene that Cannon is expected to enter a guilty plea on the charge of honest wire services fraud Tuesday morning in federal court.

The US Attorney’s office has not responded to a request for a comment, but has said they will hold a press conference on Tuesday afternoon after Cannon has entered his plea.

Cannon’s attorney did not return a call for comment.

The City of Charlotte released the following statement on Monday afternoon:

Today we learned about the filing of the Bill of Information by the U.S. Attorney in the Patrick Cannon case.  It is our hope that this filing will advance the resolution of the case at the earliest possible date.  The City continues to cooperate fully with federal investigators in order to deal appropriately with any allegations of wrongdoing.  Until the federal investigation is complete, it is inappropriate for City personnel to comment on any of the specifics of the case.