NEW HAVEN — A federal court jury unanimously agreed Friday that former Gov. John G. Rowland was again guilty of corruption. A decade after he resigned amidst scandal, jurors handed Rowland seven guilty verdicts related to two congressional campaigns.
After 12 days of evidence, witnesses, and arguments, it took jurors about seven hours to agree the former governor was guilty of all the crimes prosecutors accused him of when they indicted Rowland in April.
Those crimes are: falsification of records in a federal investigation, conspiracy, causing false statements, and illegal campaign contributions. Although it is unlikely to be imposed, the crimes carry a maximum penalty of more than 50 years. Rowland is scheduled to face a judge for sentencing on Dec. 12, but prosecutors offered to delay the hearing until after the holidays.
The jury began deliberating Rowland’s fate Thursday afternoon after his attorneys and prosecutors made closing arguments. A court clerk announced a verdict had been reached at 2:27 p.m. Friday.
Rowland stood, looking stunned as the jury foreman read the verdicts one by one. Members of his family wept quietly as they stood directly behind him in the first row of court benches. After the hearing, Rowland and his family left the courthouse without addressing the throng of news media assembled outside.
Reid Weingarten, his lead attorney, stood on the steps of the courthouse and promised to appeal the case. There were many “interesting” elements of the U.S. Attorneys’ case and Weingarten said he was looking forward to “litigating them further. We are going to appeal this case for sure.”
“The prosecutors have made a very large mountain out of a very small molehill, all triggered by an all-too-mundane political dust-up in a congressional campaign,” he said.
Prosecutors called the verdict a victory for transparency and the electoral process. The jury agreed that Rowland conspired to do work on two Republican congressional campaigns and had pitched a scheme to keep his pay hidden from federal election regulators.
“It ought to be — no it has to be — that voters know that what they see is what they get. In this case, the defendant and others didn’t want that to happen,” Michael J. Gustafson, Criminal Division Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, told reporters.
“The jury’s verdict today sends a very clear and simple message to candidates and people who work for campaigns. That simple message is this . . . put your name on it,” he said.
Rowland was sentenced in 2005 to a year and one day in prison followed by four months of house arrest for corruption while he was governor. That conviction played a central role in the more recent charges against him.
Prosecutors argued that Rowland’s past prevented him from working openly for political campaigns. That prompted him to propose to work for campaigns in secret, accepting payments from other entities for work he would do for candidates, they charged.
“Mr. Rowland couldn’t sell his most valuable assets on the open market, but if he could keep it hidden, maybe then he could,” U.S. Attorney Chris Mattei told the jury Thursday.
Rowland’s crimes stem from two campaigns.
In 2010, the former governor aggressively courted Republican Mark Greenberg, who is now in his third consecutive run for the 5th Congressional District seat. Rowland pitched Greenberg a consulting contract, which included $35,000 a month in compensation. But the former governor wanted the pay to come from Greenberg’s nonprofit animal shelter, the Simon Foundation. The Greenberg campaign eventually rejected Rowland’s proposal.
The former governor successfully entered into a similar arrangement with Brian Foley, the wealthy husband of Lisa Wilson-Foley, who ran for the seat in 2012. Foley paid Rowland $5,000 a month as a consultant for Apple Rehab, his nursing home company.
Meanwhile, Rowland worked as one of two main consultants to the Wilson-Foley campaign and used his afternoon talk radio show on WTIC 1080 AM to echo the candidate’s messages and attack her opponents.
Throughout the trial, Rowland’s attorneys maintained the former governor’s work at Apple Rehab was legitimate and his work on the campaign was a volunteer effort.
However, prosecutors presented the jury with evidence that Rowland sent about 10 times as many emails to Wilson-Foley’s campaign staff than he did to the Apple Rehab executives with whom he was purportedly working.
Rowland spoke publicly about rebuilding his life after he was released from federal prison in 2006. He was hired as Waterbury’s economic development director before becoming an afternoon radio host for WTIC. He resigned from the radio job in April just before being indicted by a grand jury.