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Former Charlotte mayor seeks forgiveness in bid for new office

Patrick Cannon, embattled former Charlotte mayor, explains his intent to return to public office after being arrested in 2014 while he was mayor.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte City Council candidate and former mayor Patrick Cannon, whose new campaign marks his return to politics after spending nearly two years in federal prison, says she is seeking forgiveness.

"I would hope that people would think that I deserve a second chance," Cannon told WCNC Charlotte's Hunter Sáenz.

Cannon announced last Friday he would once again seek public office with a campaign seeking an open at-large City Council seat.

Cannon resigned from his position as mayor in 2014 after he was caught on camera admitting to taking around $50,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents. He was arrested in March of 2014, just 114 days into his term as mayor

"It was the lowest of lows in terms of how one could ever feel," Cannon said as he remembered the day he was arrested. "It was not the kind of thing that me or my family were proud of. I was very embarrassed by it."

Since his release from prison in 2016, Cannon hasn't spoken much about his arrest nor has he sat down with reporters to answer questions. 

He told Sáenz about when he told his wife what happened.

"I didn't make a call until I got in the car. I was on my way in, and at that point, it was one where -- I mean it's indescribable," he recalled. "At that point, I was still like a deer in headlights."

While serving time, Cannon said he took time to think deeply about what he did, reflect, and take behavioral courses. 

When asked Wednesday how he plans to regain public trust, Cannon said he is "asking for that second chance."

"There's no way that you can ever find your way to trust me if you don't me the opportunity," he told Sáenz.

"I know that I can be an asset to our city," he said. "I feel like I can't really get that true level of forgiveness until I'm able to get back to a place where I can show people that I still have worth." 

Cannon told Sáenz that he has no interest in ever running for mayor again. 

"The manager's office is running the city," he explained. "Members of council -- they're there, the mayor is there to facilitate. I'd like to be in a position to more than facilitate and to cut ribbons and to make a certain number of appointments."

Cannon said he spoke to a number of reverends and church leaders as well as law enforcement officials who supported his run for office again. 

Cannon told WCNC Charlotte he is in touch with Mayor Vi Lyles and has been over the years. 

"The mayor has been kind," he said. "And the last time we saw each other was - it was around Christmas," he said. 

However, Cannon revealed Lyles would write him while he was serving his time. 

"She'd say, 'It's amazing because it seems like you're still here because of stuff that's going through - it's like when you were here,'" he remembered. "She basically wrote me to let me know she was thinking about me, was hoping that all was well, that she was praying for me."

WCNC Charlotte asked Mayor Lyles how she felt about Cannon running, knowing what he did while being mayor. 

Lyles did not give her opinion on the matter in a two-sentence statement released by her campaign. 

"There are a number of at-large city council candidates," the statement read. "As long as the qualifications to run for office are met, they have a right to seek votes from the residents of Charlotte."

Cannon insists he's ready to serve again and can be trusted, even to those who are skeptical. 

"If there's a place in you that will allot yourself to have a level of forgiveness, a level of understanding that people can make mistakes and do make mistakes, and that you are willing to give me -- like anyone else -- an opportunity to redeem themselves," he said, " I'd be so honored."

TIMELINE: Revisit Cannon's arrest, trial, and sentencing

At the time of his 2014 trial, he accepted a plea agreement and was sentenced to 44 months in federal prison. Cannon was initially under investigation for public corruption; however, the sentence was part of a plea deal in which he pleaded guilty to one count of honest services wire fraud, which carried a potential sentence of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. 

During his 2014 trial, Cannon said he believed the agents were developers wanting his help getting into Charlotte's hot real estate market. He was released from prison in September of 2016 after serving 22 months.

On Friday, Michael Dickerson, the director of elections for Mecklenburg County, confirmed that Cannon is eligible to both vote and seek public office in North Carolina.

"In North Carolina, once your rights as a citizen have been restored, you're allowed to file for office, run for office and vote," Dickerson said. 

Last week, after news of Cannon's political return, was announced, former WCNC Charlotte reporter Rad Berky reflected on Cannon's career. In 2014, Berky was the first to report Cannon's arrest after receiving a tip to visit the federal courthouse in Mecklenburg County.