NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — Former Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland is scheduled to return to federal court almost a decade after pleading guilty to political corruption.
Rowland faces a conspiracy trial this time around, accused of conspiring to hide political consulting work for two campaigns.
Prosecutors say Rowland was paid $35,000 for work on Republican Lisa Wilson-Foley’s 2012 congressional campaign in money funneled through a phony contract with her husband’s nursing home chain. He’s also accused of trying to set up a similar deal with another Republican candidate.
Wilson-Foley and her husband, Brian Foley, pleaded guilty March 31 to conspiring to make illegal campaign contributions that took the form of payments by Foley to Rowland.
Rowland says he did nothing wrong. He has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, falsifying records in a federal investigation, causing false statements to be made to the Federal Election Commission and causing illegal campaign contributions.
Prosecutors say the Foleys came up with the plan to hide Rowland’s campaign role amid concern they would be criticized if it were discovered they paid for advice from an ex-convict. Rowland served 10 months in prison after pleading guilty almost a decade ago to accepting illegal gifts while in office.
The Foleys are expected to testify against Rowland at his trial on Wednesday and prosecutors say they have email evidence that supports their contention that Rowland was part of the conspiracy.
“Had a brief chat with Lisa,” Rowland wrote to an email to Brian Foley. “I get it. Let’s you and I meet.”
Rowland’s attorneys argue he was simply showing that he understood that the Foleys wanted him to work for the nursing home business and not the campaign.
Foley is expected to testify that Rowland approached the couple to offer his services as a political consultant. He also is expected to testify that the amount of the payment was based on Rowland’s assertions that a rival candidate, Mark Greenberg, had offered to pay him $7,500 to $8,000 a month, which prosecutors say also was to be hidden.
“Mr. Foley responded to this prospect by offering Mr. Rowland a consulting agreement with (the nursing home chain),” prosecutors wrote in a court filing. “They then negotiated Mr. Rowland’s rate by negotiating down from the rate Mr. Greenberg had ostensibly offered Rowland for his campaign activities.”
Rowland could receive another federal prison sentence if convicted.
But not everyone believes that is likely.
Hugh Keefe, a well-known trial attorney who has represented several high-profile politicians accused of corruption, said the Federal Election Commission often handles cases like this one administratively, usually with a fine.
“I think people can honestly ponder why the federal government is pouring time, money and resources into this prosecution because it’s a relatively small amount of money involved and John Rowland is now a private citizen,” said Keefe, who is representing several potential witnesses in the case. “By federal standards, it’s on the lower end of the scale as far as crimes go.”
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