High-priced attorneys hired by former Gov. John G. Rowland say the seven count federal indictment against him for consulting work that wasn’t reported to election regulators should be tossed.
Reid Weingarten, William Drake, and Michelle Levin of Steptoe and Johnson picked apart each count in Tuesday’s motion to dismiss.
The attorneys argue that the consulting Rowland did for 5th Congressional District candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley wasn’t illegal. The federal government says Rowland “devised a scheme” to hide the campaign consulting work he did by contracting with a law firm that did business with Wilson-Foley’s husband, Brian Foley.
Weingarten said his attorneys argue that the indictment “at most, alleges a conspiracy to conceal payments to Mr. Rowland.” But concealing a payment to a private citizen is hardly against the law.
They said if Mr. Foley’s payments to Rowland qualified as an in-kind contribution, then there is no obligation for the campaign to disclose the ultimate recipient of the payment.
It’s proper for a campaign committee to “only disclose expenditures to its direct vendors, and a committee is not required to disclose the payments of a vendor to any sub-vendor,” the motion states.
They argue there was no attempt to defraud the government under this scenario.
The motion to dismiss all seven counts goes onto discuss how there was no attempt to falsify any of the contracts in either 2009 or 2011.
“The 2011 agreement provided that Mr. Rowland would perform services for the firm and its clients and be paid by the firm for those services,” the motion states. “The indictment alleges nothing to the contrary and points to no false statements in the 2011 agreement.”
The indictment also says Rowland tried to ink a similar consulting deal with Republican Congressional candidate Mark Greenberg in 2009. Greenberg declined to participate.
According to the indictment, Rowland wanted Greenberg to hire him as a consultant to “The Simon Foundation,” his animal rescue center in Bloomfield. The payments to Rowland would be made through the animal rescue center rather than the campaign committee.
“By proposing to run the campaign-related payments to Rowland through the Animal Center, Rowland sought to prevent actual campaign contributions and expenditures from being reported to the FEC and the public,” the indictment states.
Rowland’s attorneys want to dismiss all the counts, but it looks like they’re also positioning themselves to make sure the ones related to Greenberg are dismissed.
They pointed out that the contract drawn up in 2009 by Rowland’s consulting company was never signed or executed.
“An unsigned, unexecuted draft contract between private parties (on which no work was ever performed and no payments were ever made) cannot be false,” Rowland’s attorneys wrote in their motion.
Rowland pleaded not guilty to the grand jury indictment in April.
Following that hearing, Weingarten told reporters that he was looking forward to a trial.
“We will have an aggressive challenge to these charges. We are looking forward to it. Most of all, we are looking forward to this trial and we fully expect our client to be fully vindicated,” he said.
The government is expected to file its reply to the recent motion to dismiss on June 16.
Rowland’s lawyers are also requesting an enhanced jury selection process.
Rowland’s legal team has asked the court to issue a written questionnaire for the potential jury pool and permit individual interviews with jurors. They also want five additional peremptory challenges and at least four alternate jurors.
“Our system of justice depends upon the trial in the courtroom, not in the media,” Rowland’s lawyers wrote in court documents.
But what happens when your client is a former governor and radio talk show host?
“Both local and national media have extensively covered Mr. Rowland’s 2014 indictment and arraignment,” the motion states. “Nearly every article or story has referenced Mr. Rowland’s 2004 resignation from office and prior conviction.”
The request for an enhanced jury selection process goes onto say that “editorials published in Connecticut on the topic of Mr. Rowland’s indictment presume he is guilty of the charges against him despite the presumption of innocence . . . In media interviews, Connecticut residents, and thus potential jury members, not only presume Mr. Rowland’s guilt, but express a desire for him to be incarcerated as a result.”
Rowland’s attorneys argue the protections of the enhanced jury selection process are warranted because of Rowland’s “term as governor, his prior conviction, and the intense media coverage of his indictment and arraignment have created a poisonous environment in which potential jurors have been bombarded with the suggestion that Mr. Rowland is corrupt, guilty, and deserving of jail time — all before one minute of testimony or evidence is heard.”
The lawyers also reserved the right to request a change of venue is those enhanced steps to jury election. The September trial is expected to last for three-weeks.