CTNJ file photo
Lisa Wilson-Foley during the 2012 campaign (CTNJ file photo)

Lawyers for a former congressional candidate are urging a judge to grant her probation for her role in the conspiracy that is likely to send twice-convicted former Gov. John G. Rowland back to prison.

The candidate, Lisa Wilson-Foley, faces a fine of up to $100,000 and a year in prison when she is sentenced on Jan. 13.

In a document filed in federal court Monday evening, Wilson-Foley’s lawyers, Kathleen Dion and Craig Raabe of Robinson & Cole, argue that even though she was the candidate, “she was neither the mastermind, the leader, nor a significant participant in the arrangement.”

Wilson-Foley’s husband, Brian Foley, and Rowland were the ones involved with the details of the agreement that involved paying Rowland through Foley’s Apple nursing home chain so that the former governor’s name wouldn’t show up in campaign finance reports, Wilson-Foley’s lawyers wrote.

Rowland resigned during his third term as governor in 2004 and served 10-months in federal prison before a stint as economic development director for the city of Waterbury followed by several years as an afternoon radio talk show host. In September, a jury convicted Rowland for conspiring to hide his participation with Wilson-Foley’s campaign in 2012 as well as an attempt to reach a similar deal in 2010 with another candidate. He is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 7.

“It is undisputed that the idea to have Apple hire Mr. Rowland was not hers, she did not participate in the negotiation or drafting of the contract, she did not arrange for or know of the payment terms nor did she have a contemporaneous understanding of the work that Mr. Rowland performed for Apple,” Wilson-Foley’s lawyers wrote.

Wilson-Foley’s husband, Brian, also faces up to a year in prison and his lawyers are also requesting probation. Foley is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 9.

Foley’s lawyer, Jessica Santos, argued that the probation department’s recommended “obstruction of justice” enhancement should not be added to the sentencing calculation.

“What makes this case somewhat unique, and why the enhancement ought not apply, is that Mr. Foley ultimately told the truth about his conduct at a meaningful point in the Government’s investigation,” Santos wrote.

She said her client ended up telling the truth about letters regarding the nature of the contract between Rowland and Foley.

“He testified at Mr. Rowland’s criminal trial, at length, that while the letters contained truthful information, they did not present the entire picture and were designed to mislead the prosecutors,” Santos wrote.

She added that Foley’s guilty plea helped prosecutors convict Rowland and also led to the guilty plea of Mrs. Wilson-Foley.

Douglas Healey file photo
Brian Foley and his lawyer Jessica Santos walk to court in September (Douglas Healey file photo)

Santos pointed to the sentencing of Ray Soucy, the architect of the campaign fundraising conspiracy that derailed Chris Donovan’s 2012 congressional bid. Soucy received six months in a halfway house for his effort to build a case against his co-conspirators, including Donovan’s former finance director Robert Braddock, who is serving a 38-month sentence.

“If you’ve gotten deep into the weeds of public corruption there is a way out, which can be by extraordinary cooperation and assistance to the government,” U.S. District Court Judge Janet Arterton said when she sentenced Soucy last November.

Foley’s lawyers argue the only reason he entered into an agreement with Rowland was because of his “blinding love for his wife and desire to support her ambitions at all costs.”

Santos said Foley recognized that concealing contributions to his wife from the Federal Elections Commission and hiding the fact that Rowland was being paid by his nursing home in exchange for services to the campaign “violate the elections process in general, are serious crimes which threaten the transparency of our democratic system.”

However, “in the grand scheme of all federal offenses, the nature and circumstances of Mr. Foley’s particular crime does not warrant a sentence of imprisonment,” Santos wrote.

Wilson-Foley’s lawyers argued in their brief that “this case appears to be driven more by the sensationalism of John Rowland and the Government’s view that he is an unrepentant recidivist than it is driven by a pressing societal need under case law precedent, federal charging guidelines or the federal Sentencing Guidelines to prosecute and incarcerate a novice politician over a low-value, recordkeeping.”

Wilson-Foley’s lawyers state in their sentencing memo that their client has ”taken responsibility through her plea, provided valuable information to the Government and, based on her history, incarceration in not necessary ‘to protect the public from further crimes of the defendant’.”

Her lawyers say she was a public figure and as a result of her involvement in this case has paid a “notorious, high price for her transgression. Her offense irreparably damaged a reputation that she earned over an entire lifetime of hard work and commitment to others.”

Wilson-Foley never testified during Rowland’s trial. She lost the 5th Congressional District Republican primary in 2012 to Andrew Roraback, who was defeated by U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty in the general election. 

Wilson-Foley and Foley have seven children and reside in Simsbury.