An anti-pornography prosecutor toppled by a sexual-harassment scandal. Promising political prospects prematurely ended by a jail sentence. A legal career ranging from county attorney to court-appointed public defender and from plaintiff to defendant.
Such were life's ironies and abrupt detours for former Salt Lake County Attorney Ted Cannon, who died last month at age 77 in the Philippines and who will be memorialized Saturday in Salt Lake City burial services.
"He was so successful and proud of his accomplishments — it was rough on him, for sure," said daughter Melissa Lauro, acknowledging the toll of Cannon's mental, emotional and physical ailments. "Unfortunately, his mental disadvantages got in the way of him living up to his potential."
Born July 18, 1931, in Salt Lake City, he first worked two decades for the Newspaper Agency Corp. in printing the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune.
After graduating from the University of Utah Law School in 1974, Cannon became a praised anti-pornography prosecutor, first with Salt Lake City and later with the Utah Attorney General's Office.
He was elected to his first term as Salt Lake County attorney in 1978 and re-elected in 1982, seen as a rising star in the Utah Republican Party while overseeing an office pursuing the prosecutions of the likes of Ervil LeBaron, Mark Hofmann, Frances Schreuder and Joseph Paul Franklin.
In 1986, Cannon was indicted by a county grand jury, accused of criminal defamation and official misconduct for off-the-record comments about a television reporter, forcible sexual abuse involving his comments and actions towards two secretaries and misuse of public funds involving the use of a third employee's work time for his political campaign.
Resigning as county attorney in 1987, he pleaded guilty to the first misdemeanor charge and no contest to the other misdemeanors, serving 23 days of his 30-day sentence at the Summit County Jail. Part of Cannon's defense cited the effects of stress and his diagnosis of bipolar disorder resulting in manic-depressive behavior.
Sued civilly by one of the secretaries who sought $1.2 million in damages, he settled out of court for $68,000. He in turn tried to sue Redbook magazine for a 1990 article about the alleged relationship. The lawsuit, however, was filed after the state's one-year statute of limitations for libel claims.
After the 1986 scandal, Cannon went into private practice for several years — first out of his home and later a small office, where he picked up work as a court-appointed public defender working in the U.S. District Court. But he later left his legal career, living on disability payments.
His most recent public moment came in 2006, when he was evicted by court order from a subsidized downtown Salt Lake apartment, deemed to have violated his lease by creating a nuisance with a residence filled with debris and emitting a foul odor.4 comments on this story
Acting as his own defense, Cannon said severe illnesses — nearly resulting in gangrene in his legs — prevented him from caring for his residence as well as he had hoped.
Lauro, one of Cannon's six surviving children, said her father had been in the Philippines for an extended vacation of several months prior to his death on June 2; the initial autopsy cited emphysema as the cause.
His remains took several weeks to be returned to Salt Lake City; his personal belongings are still en route. Scheduling challenges forced the family to delay graveside services at the Salt Lake City Cemetery until 11 a.m. Saturday, which would have been Cannon's 78th birthday.