Josalee Thrift file photo
Andrew Roraback when he was in the state Senate (Josalee Thrift file photo)

When Andrew Roraback’s brother called to tell him former Gov. John G. Rowland had given his cellphone number out over the radio, “he seemed alarmed,” Roraback testified Friday.

Roraback, a former state Senator who is now a sitting state judge in Waterbury, recounted his telephone conversation with his brother, Chip Roraback, who testified before him Friday.

“He asked me what I ever did to John Rowland,” Roraback said.

Roraback was the last candidate to enter the 5th Congressional District race in 2012. He was viewed as a threat by the other three candidates already in the race that year because of his popularity and name recognition in the district.

Roraback testified that when he started receiving calls from WTIC AM 1080’s listeners, he was told to vote against repealing the death penalty. They also told him “John Rowland had said to call me,” Roraback said.

Rowland is facing federal charges that he conspired with Brian Foley and Lisa Wilson-Foley to hide his work on Wilson-Foley’s campaign from election regulators.

Roraback testified that he was unaware of Rowland’s contract with Chris Shelton, the compliance attorney for Brian Foley’s nursing home chain. He also said he was unaware of the involvement Rowland had with Wilson-Foley’s campaign, including Rowland’s role in the production of a radio advertisement calling on him to oppose legislation to repeal the death penalty.

The radio ad was played for the jury on Friday.

“What was remarkable to me was it was coming awfully early, coming almost a year before the election,” Roraback said.

The ad painted Roraback as a liberal and asked people to call his legislative office to get him to vote against legislation to repeal the death penalty.

Asked for his position on the death penalty in court, Roraback said, “philosophically I have difficulty with the death penalty.”

But that year his goal was to help victims by repealing a 2011 law that allowed inmates to shave up to five days a month off their prison sentences by participating in programs. He said the amendment he proposed was defeated, so he voted against the legislation.

Roraback ended up winning the Republican primary for the Congressional seat in 2012, but he went on to lose the election to U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty.

Roraback said he never complained to WTIC, the radio station where Rowland was working as an afternoon host.

On Thursday, Chris Syrek, one of Wilson-Foley’s campaign managers, testified that on Feb. 23, 2012, Rowland emailed him during the show. He was talking about the death penalty on the air and wanted Roraback’s personal phone number.

“Rohrback [sic] home phone number ? givuing [sic] out his and [Democratic Sen. Edith] Prague contact info,” Rowland emailed Syrek.

“Ha that’s awesome,” Syrek responded. “Want his cell?”

Rowland read the number on the air and asked listeners to call Roraback.

Roraback told the court he was not a regular listener of the WTIC radio show and didn’t know if Rowland gave out the cellphone numbers of any of the other state Senators who were on the fence about the death penalty that year.

The trial will continue on Monday.

Prosecutors don’t plan on calling Wilson-Foley to testify, but Rowland’s defense attorneys have not ruled out putting the former Congressional candidate on the stand.