Minutes after prosecutors rested their corruption case against former governor John Rowland on Monday, Rowland’s legal team called a witness whose attorney immediately accused the government of intimidation.
The government concluded its case with evidence that Rowland communicated far more with Lisa Wilson-Foley’s congressional campaign than he did with the business paying him as a consultant.
The former governor is on trial facing charges he worked as a consultant for Wilson-Foley’s 2012 campaign but arranged to keep his payment hidden from election regulators by entering a contract with Apple Rehab, a nursing home company owned by her husband, Brian Foley.
Rowland’s lawyers have argued that Rowland’s work with Apple was legitimate, while his work on the campaign was strictly a volunteer effort. On Monday, prosecutors presented the jury with stark numbers in an effort to debunk that argument.
According to emails and phone calls reviewed by Mark Borofsky, an investigative support analyst and former postal inspector, Rowland communicated far more with individuals associated with the campaign.
Jurors saw a graph indicating that 787 — or 89 percent — of the emails reviewed between October 2011 to April 2012 were between Rowland and campaign workers. Meanwhile, 63 — or 7 percent — of the emails were between Rowland and executives at Apple Rehab, where during that period he was a paid consultant.
When prosecutors rested their case, lead defense attorney Reid Weingarten called one of those executives as his first witness. But an attorney for Brian Bedard, the chief operating officer of Apple Rehab, accused the government of trying to frighten Bedard by reading him his legal rights.
“One of the things I’ve learned is that the government wants to intimidate Mr. Bedard. They want to intimidate and threaten him by having you advise him of his rights,” attorney Hugh Keefe told Judge Janet Bond Arterton. “I resent the government.”
“I appreciate the show Mr. Keefe’s putting on,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Mattei said. “I think we can move on.”
The exchange occurred as the jury was out on a lunch break. Bedard waived the reading of his rights and when court resumed in the afternoon, he took the stand as the first witness called by Rowland’s defense team.
The former governor’s lawyers sought to prove that Rowland did legitimate with Bedard as a contractor. He described several meetings in which Rowland was engaged with the business of Apple.
“We talked about the industry, the labor unions, nursing homes closing. We talked about reimbursements,” Bedard said.
Weingarten asked Bedard several times whether he believed the arrangement with Rowland was a sham or a pretext to cover for Rowland’s help on Wilson-Foley’s campaign.
“No, absolutely not,” Bedard answered.
However, prosecutors showed the jury graphs depicting the number of phone calls Rowland had with Apple Rehab executives. Between October 2011 to April 2012, Rowland had three phone calls to Bedard and six phone calls with Brian Foley. Meanwhile, he had 45 phone discussions with Wilson-Foley’s campaign manager, Chris Syrek, and 65 phone calls with her consultant, Chris Healy.
Before the jury entered the courtroom Monday morning, Rowland’s attorneys objected to prosecutors’ use of the charts and graphs.
“It doesn’t speak to Mr. Rowland’s belief about his job at Apple,” attorney William Drake told the judge. “Mr. Rowland is free to volunteer as much or to whatever extent he wants on a political campaign. The amount of work on the campaign is not probative of whether the job at Apple was real.”
Prosecutor Liam Brennan disagreed. He slammed a binder packed full of campaign emails onto a table in front of him.
“This binder is emails from the campaign. This is highly probative of where Mr. Rowland put his work,” he said.
Judge Janet Bond Arterton agreed. The jury later saw both the graphs and the packed binder, which Borofsky compared to small packets of paper, which represented Rowland’s communications with Apple employees.
Prosecutors also attacked the defense’s argument that Rowland and Wilson-Foley were close and therefore his campaign work was a “labor of love.”
In 2010, when Wilson-Foley was running for lieutenant governor, neither Rowland nor his wife Patricia Rowland made any contributions to the campaign, according to an affidavit from state elections regulators.
Meanwhile, Wilson-Foley and Rowland exchanged 10 emails that year. They began communicating more as the 2012 campaign geared up. Between January 2011 and August 2011, they emailed each other 22 times.
But during the period when Rowland was being paid to consult with her husband’s company, the two exchanged 321 emails.
The emails and phone records were collected by investigators through a series of subpoenas and search warrant seizures.
The trial will continue Tuesday. It is not clear whether Rowland will take the stand himself as part of his defense. After prosecutors rested their case Monday, Arterton advised the former governor of his right to testify.
“The pitfalls include cross-exam by government, in many areas not the least of which would be the 2004 conviction. Keep all those thing in mind. There’s an upside of what the jury will hear, and there’s a downside to what the jury will hear,” she told Rowland, who resigned in 2004 before serving 10 months in prison on corruption charges.
Rowland, who has said little so far throughout the trial, said he understood.