Judge orders documents unsealed in Patrick Cannon sentencing

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A federal judge has ordered documents filed leading up to the sentencing of former Mayor Patrick Cannon.

Cannon is currently serving 44 months at a federal prison in West Virginia after pleading guilty to charges of accepting bribes in exchange for official favors.

The Charlotte Observer filed a motion in May seeking to unseal documents related to Cannon's sentencing.

On Tuesday, Chief US District Judge Frank Whitney granted the entirety of the Observer's request with slight modifications.

Whitney's order directed Cannon's attorneys to redact documents originally submitted under seal, including a brief filed by attorneys arguing for a lenient sentence and letters supported by Cannon's family and friends seeking a light sentence.

The Observer's motion also sought access to Cannon's mental health evaluation. Whitney ordered the evaluation to be made public because, he said, the evaluation was used in his decision to order Cannon be eligible for substance abuse counseling while in prison, which could take up to a year off of his sentence.

Jon Buchan, an attorney for The Observer, praised Judge Whitney's order and said he hoped it results in a change to the local rules governing federal court.

"Judge Whitney's order, like Judge Keesler's recent order in the Petraeus case, demonstrates these judges' respect for the critical value of letting the public get a full view of the criminal justice process," Buchan said. "I hope this will result in the reconsideration of the local rule that requires these sentencing memoranda to be filed under seal, and instead require them to be filed publicly with only the necessary information removed."

An attorney for Cannon did not have a definite timeline for when they documents would be provided when reached on Tuesday afternoon but said the documents would be provided "as soon as reasonable possible, in accordance with the Judge's orders."

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