I love a good scandal. I’m like that Michael Jackson meme popping popcorn into my mouth—or the Tide Pods one, depending on the insanity of the scandal—as I watch it unfold. It’s why I read true crime novels and binge watch shows like House of Cards, whose scandals, ironically, extend well beyond the show’s script. I’m both shocked and intrigued by the audacity of human nature when it’s mixed with power and wealth.
Over the years, Charlotteans have produced plenty of meme-worthy headlines. Here are five of the most noteworthy people in them.
In 2014, at four months into his term as mayor of Charlotte, Patrick Cannon was arrested on corruption charges for accepting more than $50,000 in bribes from under-cover FBI agents posing as real estate investors looking to expedite projects. Court records show Cannon also had his hand out to Charlotte strip-club operator David “Slim” Baucom, who kept Cannon on retainer for special favors. Cannon was sentenced to 44 months in jail plus $10,000 in fines and $50,000 in restitution (all of which, records show, he paid).
Cannon’s legal problems didn’t end with his arrest, conviction, and sentencing. In February of 2015, he was arrested for voter fraud. While waiting for his stay at a federal corrections facility in West Virginia, Cannon forgot that felons weren’t allowed to vote and cast a ballot.
Where is he now? Cannon was released from prison in 2016 after serving half of his sentence. Today, you can hear him on his Old School 105.3 talk show. Rumors are circulating that he plans to run for office again in 2019 when his probation ends.
Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker started out as evangelical healers traveling the Bible Belt in the 1960s. Their success at converting souls eventually led to a television show, television channel, amusement park, and housing compound called Heritage USA, where PTL (Praise the Lord) faithful could live under the shadow of their leaders.
Like all juicy page turners, with the Bakkers’ success came not only power but greed and lust. According to the Observer, between 1983 and 1986, the country’s most religious couple acquired over $900,000 in cars, real estate, jewelry, and furs, all paid for with PTL funds. Then, there were the affairs: Jim with both men and women and Tammy Faye with music producers and musicians. Both led to their demise – the hush money Jim paid for his alleged rape of church secretary Jessica Hahn and the millions the couple diverted from the church coffers to pay for their lifestyle. Jim was tried and convicted in 1989 on 24 counts of fraud and conspiracy.
Where are they now? Tammy Faye divorced Jim after 30 years of marriage to marry his best friend. She died of cancer in 2007 at the age of 65. Jim is at it once again with “The Jim Bakker Show,” which broadcasts out of his new Christian compound located deep in the Ozarks. The message this time around is about Doomsday and selling generators, survivalist guidebooks, and freeze-dried food to his new flock. It’s reported that he still has unpaid IRS tax liens against him in the amount of $5.5 million.
Jonathan Christenbury rose to fame in the 1990s as a pioneer in performing Lasik surgery. He was the first to perform the surgery in Charlotte. Nearly two decades later, Christenbury began his downward spiral, starting with a sexual harassment lawsuit in 2011, where a woman he had both a working relationship and an affair with sued him to recover damages for physical, mental, and emotional harm. After she ended the affair, Christenbury sent nude photos of her to her employer. She was later fired. The two settled the lawsuit under confidential terms.
In 2017, Christenbury’s legal problems continued. Two employees—one a former Charlotte Hornets dancer—sued him for sexual harassment, accusations of which included pressuring employees to have sex with them by threatening to withhold their pay and, in some instances, trying to pay for sex.
Where is now? He is no longer permitted to practice medicine. He surrendered his license after failing a North Carolina Medical Board drug test in 2018 for cocaine. Around the time, he also filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, owing millions to creditors.
Before Greg Hardy and Jerry Richardson plagued the Carolina Panthers with salacious headlines, there was Rae Carruth. In 2001, the former wide receiver was sentenced for conspiring to kill his pregnant girlfriend Cherica Adams. On the night of her murder, Carruth and Adams were on a date where he masterminded the hit. The two drove separately. On their way home, Adams was following Carruth when Carruth slammed on his brakes. While they were stopped, hitman Van Brett Watkins pulled alongside Adams and shot her. Before she died, Adams not only implicated Carruth to the police, but she also gave birth to her son, who, because of the trauma, was born with cerebral palsy. Carruth received 18 years and Watkins received 40.
Where is he now? Carruth is set to be released from prison next month. Contrary to his first request for custody of his son upon release, Carruth said in March he will not be pursuing a relationship with his now 18-year-old son. Saundra Adams is the boy’s guardian and grandmother.
Speaking of Jerry Richardson… The once beloved Panthers’ owner made headlines at the end of 2017 when Sports Illustrated broke a story of Richardson’s workplace racial and sexual misconduct. Allegations include “jeans day,” where Richardson would request female employees turn around so he could expect their backside, racial slurs directed at an African-American team scout, and a note to an employee that said “If I could … I’d pamper you more. Rub your feet. Shave your legs. Put lotion on your body — etc, etc.” Any complaints from employees were of course covered up by financial pay-outs and non-disclosure agreements, all of which were kept from the NFL.
After the story broke, the NFL conducted an investigation of their own, fining Richardson $2.75 million dollars, three times higher than any previous team fine. Of course, that punishment is null-and-void given the $2.3 billion Richardson grossed from the sell of the Panthers.
Where is he now? Richardson’s legacy continues to haunt us. While he no longer owns the Panthers, his statue still looms outside of Bank of America Stadium, which new team owner David Tepper states he’s contractually obligated to keep. His name also hails above UNC Charlotte’s football stadium. Once again, the university is contractually obligated to maintain the name for fear of losing out on $10 million.
These stories are just the tip of the iceberg.