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James Patrick Cannon served as Dade County sheriff from 2005-12.

The lawyer for Dade County's former sheriff wants to move his trial out of the area.

Attorney Chris Townley filed a motion for a change of venue Oct. 5 to place Patrick Cannon's case before another jury. Townley argued that a Dade County jury cannot be neutral because prosecutors have charged Cannon with misusing taxpayers' money from 2008-12 while he served as sheriff.

Essentially, Townley argued, Dade County taxpayers are the victims of Cannon's alleged crimes, and thus cannot be neutral. Also, Townley argued, Cannon's case has received a lot of publicity in the area, tainting the jury pool.

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Staff Photo by Dan Henry / Defense Attorney Chris Townley filed a change of venue motion in the trial of James Patrick Cannon.
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No hearing has been held on Townley's motion.

Cannon was indicted in July on 18 criminal charges — 13 counts of theft by conversion and five counts of violation of oath by a public official — and his trial was scheduled for this month. But on Thursday, Judge Jon "Bo" Wood pushed the case back after Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin said he still has not received all of the evidence he needs.

In a court order, Franklin wrote that he was just this week giving some of that evidence to Townley. He also said he was still waiting to get some records from the county.

Investigators with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation say Cannon used county money to buy clothes and pay his family's phone bill.

According to the indictment, Cannon spent $2,800 at Men's Warehouse and $600 at J.C. Penney in October 2012, two months after losing his re-election bid. At the time, according to Times Free Press archives, Cannon said the purchases were for his county-approved wardrobe expenses. He said any anger toward his shopping spree was the result of "political propaganda."

Also according to the indictment, Cannon spent about $4,400 in county money on his family's Verizon Wireless phone bills from September 2010 through November 2012.

In his court filing last week, Townley argued that a grand jury doesn't have to be neutral, because it merely decides whether there's enough evidence to charge a defendant with crimes. But when it comes to a trial, Townley argued, the people weighing the evidence need to be as objective as possible.

He made reference to the "golden rule," where a prosecutor tells jurors to place themselves in the victim's shoes. He said the Georgia Supreme Court has ruled that tactic to be "improper" because it asks the jury to make a decision based on personal interest.

"The entirety of the trial would be conducted in violation of the Golden Rule," Townley wrote.

Prior to Cannon's indictment in July, Franklin also once asked the GBI to investigate whether Cannon stole a criminal defendant's goats and fences in 2011.

After getting the evidence in that case, Franklin chose not to prosecute.

In November, when told by the Times Free Press of a second GBI investigation against him, Cannon said Franklin would be wise "I'm going to embarrass him," he said, "and I'm going to put him on national news. I'm going to show him that just because you're a district attorney don't make it right to harass people."

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at tjett@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6476.

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