Hugh McQuaid File Photo
Former Gov. John Rowland (Hugh McQuaid File Photo)

A judge rejected former Gov. John G. Rowland’s efforts to force a new trial on his recent convictions and scheduled a March 18 sentencing hearing — exactly 10 years after Rowland was sentenced to a year in prison for crimes while in office.

Judge Janet Bond Arterton has denied a request by Rowland’s attorneys for a hearing on their claims that prosecutors violated what is called the Brady disclosure law by withholding evidence supporting Rowland’s case. The Hartford Courant published a transcript of a Monday conference call between Arterton, federal prosecutors, and Rowland’s attorneys.

Arterton denied their request during the call. 

“The court has carefully reviewed all of the submissions, and has concluded that the defendant’s request should be denied; that Brady doesn’t require or authorize the far-reaching post-trial discovery that the defendant seeks, based on what appears to be speculation regarding potential violations; and the defendant hasn’t identified a basis for the court to conclude that such discovery or hearing is warranted. So I am denying your request for an evidentiary hearing. I’m denying your request for further discovery. And this matter should now be set down for sentencing,” the judge said, according to the transcript.

A jury found Rowland guilty in September of conspiring to hide from federal campaign regulators his work as a campaign political operative. Arterton put the former governor’s sentencing on hold in January after Rowland’s lawyers said prosecutors had denied them evidence that would have helped them convince the jury that Rowland was innocent.

At issue was the position of a co-conspirator and ex-congressional candidate, Lisa Wilson-Foley. Rowland was found guilty of working as an adviser to her campaign and arranging to be compensated through a contract with her husband’s successful healthcare company.

Lisa Wilson-Foley and Brian Foley both pleaded guilty last year to related charges. Brian Foley testified during Rowland’s trial that the former governor’s contract was a sham designed to pay him for campaign work.

But Wilson-Foley, who was not a witness during the trial, claims she initially believed Rowland was a campaign volunteer who was being paid for legitimate work at her husband’s company. It’s an argument that Reid Weingarten, the former governor’s lead attorney, made during the trial.

Weingarten contended that a memo penned by Wilson-Foley’s attorney included information that prosecutors should have provided at trial and was enough to trigger new discovery proceedings and, eventually, a new trial.

Arterton disagreed during the Monday conference call but gave Weingarten one week to submit a brief on the issue. In the meantime, the parties agreed on March 18 as a sentencing date for the former governor.

March 18 is an anniversary for Rowland, who was sentenced to one year and one day in prison on March 18, 2005. The former governor resigned from office ahead of that conviction, which stemmed from taking illegal gifts connected to state business. Rowland ultimately served about 10 months in prison and eventually returned to public life as an afternoon radio host on on WTIC.

This time, prosecutors are seeking a stiffer penalty for the former governor. They have asked Arterton to impose a sentence of between 40 and 46 months in prison. U.S. attorneys factored Rowland’s prior conviction into their sentencing memo.

“In the government’s view, Mr. Rowland is an individual who simply refuses to ‘play it straight,’ because he delights in the illicit, dark side of politics where rules are for suckers, the public good is an afterthought, the game is all that matters, and he is the indispensable player of that game,” the U.S. attorneys wrote in December.

So far, Brian Foley is the only conspirator to be sentenced. Citing his cooperation with the government, Arterton allowed Foley to avoid jail time and sentenced him to three years of probation and three months in a halfway house.