A former Jacksonville police officer fought back tears Friday as he read a prepared statement apologizing to the children he molested, his wife, family, friends. He was then sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Richard Cannon, a 25-year veteran of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, was arrested in the summer of 2011 and charged with six counts of lewd and lascivious acts with a minor and one count of capital sexual battery on a minor. Additional charges were added a month later.
Under a plea agreement entered in August, the 49-year-old pleaded guilty to only two of 13 counts: attempted sexual battery and custodial sexual battery.
Judge Kevin Blazs sentenced Cannon to 30 years in prison on the sexual battery charge, but he was credited for the 392 days he has been in custody since his arrest. Cannon was also sentenced to 15 years of sex offender probation on the attempted sexual battery charge.
"We don't care if you're a sheriff's officer, a teacher, a priest -- you are not going to be able to molest children in the city of Jacksonville," Assistant State Attorney Theresa Simak said after the sentencing. "We just won't stand for that."
At Friday's sentencing hearing, two former JSO colleagues who investigated Cannon testified -- one reading from letters Cannon wrote from jail in which he graphically described what he did to the girls. He wrote, "I know (she) was a child, but it turned into an affair, and many nights (she) came to me."
Psychologist Larry Knightly, who had examined Cannon earlier this year, testified that he has "distorted attitude and beliefs toward children" and he could possibly still be a threat to children when his sentence ends when Cannon in his late 70s.
Cannon told the court he has spent countless hours reading his Bible and "trying to learn how to conduct my life, make changes to my life, so that I won’t make the same mistakes again."
Prosecutors said evidence shows that Cannon abused two girls from January 2008 through August 2011, all under 18 and at least one under age 12.
One of the victim impact statements read in court Friday was from 31-year-old woman who said Cannon molested her when she was a child. He was not charged in that case because the statute of limitations had run out.
Cannon's ex-wife, Vivian, released this statement after Friday's sentencing:
"Justice has been served! He admitted his crimes and, like the rest of the public, he now has to serve the time. I feel safe knowing he will not be able to victimize another child during that time. It's sad that the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office has been tarnished by his actions. I hope my family can stay strong and recover from this."
Prosecutors said none of the victims nor their families wanted to attend the hearing because they did not want to relive the horrible acts. They said the plea deal helped keep the case from going to trial and spared the victims from having to testify.