Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tearful Ex-Officer Gets 30 Years in Sex Attacks; Prosecutor Reads Portions of Letters from Victims during Sentencing Hearing

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tearful Ex-Officer Gets 30 Years in Sex Attacks; Prosecutor Reads Portions of Letters from Victims during Sentencing Hearing

Article excerpt

Byline: Charles Broward

Richard Cannon spent 25 years enforcing the law. Now he will spend 30 years in prison after being sentenced Friday for sex attacks on two girls.

Cannon, a 48-year-old former Jacksonville police officer, pleaded guilty Aug. 9 to attempted sexual battery on a girl younger than 12 and sexual battery on a girl younger than 18. Weeping, sobbing and stuttering his breaths, he expressed his apologies during the sentencing.

"This is rather difficult," Cannon said. "I'd like to express my deepest and most sincere apologies to my victims, to my family and friends and to the Sheriff's Office for any embarrassment or shame I have caused."

He then said he hopes to improve his life, continue counseling and never again commit such crimes.

But when questioned by Assistant State Attorney Theresa Simak, he sat motionless and quiet being asked if he had molested girls throughout his career. He eventually admitted that he had done so during most of it.

Simak asked if he felt he should have been held to a higher standard as a police officer.

"No, ma'am," he answered."

Cannon's defense attorney, Thomas Fallis, argued that if the state contended he should be held to a higher standard, the judge should also consider the positives of a career that high-ranking officers had described as "stellar." He noted that the victims also said good things about Cannon in the letters they submitted.

"What's going on here is we've got law enforcement trying to punish law enforcement to make a statement," Fallis said.

Simak's reply was that the prosecution sought punishment because Cannon is a "molester."

"While on the job, he was enforcing the law," she said. "While off duty, he was breaking it. ... It is hypocritical for them to say it [his job] is mitigation."

To his credit, Simak said his service played a role in the state dropping the 11 other molestation and sexual battery charges he had faced, with consent of the victims' families.

One dropped charge, she said, carried up to life in prison. She said the state believes there was a third victim based in part on admissions he made during his psycho-sexual evaluation. …

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