Hugh McQuaid photo
Brian Foley walks out of court Friday (Hugh McQuaid photo)

NEW HAVEN—(Updated 4:48 p.m.) Brian Foley, a nursing home owner who illegally bankrolled former Gov. John G. Rowland’s consultant work on his wife’s congressional campaign, will not see the inside of a prison cell, a federal court judge said Friday.

Judge Janet Bond Arterton sentenced Foley to three years of probation and three months in a halfway house for misdemeanor crimes. Foley will be asked to pay a $30,000 fine and a $100.50 nightly charge for his stay at the halfway house.

Foley is the first conspirator in a campaign finance scheme to go before Arterton for sentencing. His wife, former candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley, has pleaded guilty and Rowland has been convicted on related charges.

Arterton sentenced Foley during a hearing Friday afternoon, which was delayed slightly by morning snowfall. She factored Foley’s eventual cooperation with federal investigators into her sentence.

“Not only did [Foley] come clean in his testimony, he enabled the government’s successful prosecution of a previously convicted former Connecticut governor, as well as a guilty plea from a candidate for federal office,” Arterton said.

Foley was central to a conspiracy to hide Rowland’s work on Wilson-Foley’s 2012 congressional campaign. He paid the former governor through his company, Apple Rehab, and his lawyers drafted a sham contract representing Rowland as an adviser to the health care company. At Rowland’s trial, Foley testified that he hired Rowland to lend his political expertise to his wife’s campaign. He paid Rowland $35,000 through the nursing home company.

Foley addressed the court for more than 15 minutes following testimony from two friends. During his remarks he said he was blinded by his desire to help elect his wife to Congress.

“I wanted more than anything for my wife to become a congresswoman so I conjured up this scheme where Mr. Rowland would not have to report to the Federal Elections Commission,” he said. “I believed with Mr. Rowland’s advice that was the best course to have her become a congresswoman.”

He also referred to aspects of a difficult childhood, which were detailed in sealed court documents. Responding to news reports that he seemed detached in his testimony during Rowland’s trial, Foley said his cross-examination by the former governor’s attorney was less difficult than child abuse he had experienced.

“I remember sitting in that chair thinking ‘as long as he doesn’t take off his belt I’ll be okay—I’ll get through this,’” he said.

Foley’s criminal efforts to financially prop up his wife’s campaign went beyond his illicit payments to Rowland. During the former governor’s trial, the wealthy business owner admitted to illegally contributing $500,000 to his wife. He also funneled additional dollars to the campaign through his kids and family members in an effort to exceed donation limits.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Liam Brennan said unlike Rowland, Foley had not participated in the conspiracy for his own benefit. He argued that Foley’s sentence should reflect his cooperation.

“This is a case that is going to send a message on many fronts across three sentences,” Brennan said. “With Mr. Foley, the question is what happens when someone cooperates with government?”

Like her husband, Wilson-Foley pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges early last year. However, she did not cooperate with the government. She is scheduled to be sentenced next week and prosecutors have asked for a 10-month prison sentence.

Rowland’s own sentencing was postponed after arguments raised by Wilson-Foley’s lawyers in a Dec. 29 sentencing memo.

The government said the new argument is just Wilson-Foley trying to deny her knowledge of the crime that she pleaded guilty to last March.

“Ms. Wilson-Foley was the candidate and perhaps the only individual with the authority to put a stop to the conspiracy at any time. Instead, she embraced Mr. Rowland’s illicit role in her campaign and took full advantage of the illegal arrangement,” prosecutors wrote in court documents.

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 lawyers argued 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.”

The government shot back in court documents that by making such an “unfounded claim” Wilson-Foley “reveals a remarkable lack of awareness for the fact that she was the candidate at the helm of a campaign infused with fraud. Both she and Mr. Rowland were central players in that fraud.”

Rowland is facing significantly more time in prison than either Foley following his September conviction at trial on felony charges. It is not Rowland’s first corruption conviction. He left office in scandal in 2004 before serving 10 months in prison. His sentencing hearing was delayed indefinitely this month due to sentencing arguments by Wilson-Foley’s lawyer.

Wilson-Foley is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 13.