- Associated Press - Saturday, December 19, 2015

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - A Republican gubernatorial candidate in North Carolina said he has no regrets about sending an email asking for leniency for a teacher convicted of molesting children in his classroom who was sentenced to life in prison plus 260 years.

While he was a state representative from Iredell County, Robert Brawley wrote email to the Department of Public Safety in September 2014, calling John Patterson a friend and asking if he could be moved to a prison closer to Mooresville or his sentenced reduced. The request was denied.

“John Patterson is a friend of mine and was a great teacher. Can we find a way to help him? Either moving him closer to Mooresville, where his family is or reducing his sentence?” Brawley wrote in an email obtained by The Charlotte Observer (http://bit.ly/1YskHzW ).

A family member of one of the victims sent the email to the newspaper.

Brawley told the newspaper while he doesn’t regret sending the email, he does wish he knew more about the case before sending the request. Brawley thought at the time there was only one victim instead of 11.

“I always felt if I got a request for public service, it needs to be checked out,” Brawley said. “I’ve had requests on traffic tickets, all kinds of things.”

Patterson molested his fourth-grade students in his classroom at the former Mount Mourne Elementary School in the 1970s and 1980s, authorities said. One man testified at Patterson’s 2014 trial that he attacked him while he was reciting Bible verses aloud to the class.

The family member that sent the email to the newspaper worried Brawley might pardon Patterson if elected. Brawley said he would not do that.

Brawley faces incumbent Gov. Pat McCrory in next year’s primary.

Both the investigators in the case and the victims said Brawley’s email angered them.

“What possibly could be gained from getting Patterson closer to Mooresville?” said victim G.C. Campbell, now 49 years old. “In my mind, he does not deserve any other benefits in life.”

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Information from: The Charlotte Observer, http://www.charlotteobserver.com

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