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Kwame Cannon: Free at Last

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ASHEBORO — A man sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to six burglaries has had his sentence commuted by Gov. Jim Hunt to time served.

Under Hunt's order, Kwame Kanbon Cannon, 29, of Greensboro was released Friday. He will be supervised by parole officers until 2004.

Cannon received the life sentence under the old fair sentencing law. Under today's structured sentencing, the punishment probably would have been closer to 20 years.

Cannon, who was 17 at the time of his arrest in 1986, was on probation for five counts of breaking and entering when he pleaded guilty to the burglaries.

Wednesday at his church, the congregation threw up their hands and raised their voices in an emotional homecoming.

"I would like to give God the credit for giving Governor Hunt the compassion and the courage to release me, and to give me a second chance at my freedom," Cannon said.

Cannon's supporters say they want to give a lot of second chances.

"Kwame, as much as we love him and rejoice in his presence, is one of thousands of young black men and women who need to be returned to their communities and their families," says Rev. Nelson Johnson with the Faith Community Church.

A group of ministers called The Pulpit Forum will lead a statewide effort to free people the forum thinks are serving unjust sentences.

But Wednesday was about celebration. White and black reverends and rabbis joined together at the church. One of Cannon's burglary victims was also in the crowd.

"I was not hurt that a young teen-ager tried to break into my house, and was frightened away," says former victim Myra Dean. "I cannot believe that teen-ager received two life sentences for six unarmed burglaries."

While under state supervision, Cannon must attend school or work full time and pay a monthly fee of $20 for his supervision by a correction official.

He also will be required to live at his mother's residence in Greensboro.

From staff and wire reports.

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Mark Roberts, Reporter
Jim Young, Photographer
Jason Darwin, Web Editor

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