Two weeks before former Gov. John G. Rowland is scheduled to be sentenced for campaign corruption crimes, his lawyers made a last-minute pitch asking a federal court judge to order a new trial.
The former governor is expected to be sentenced March 18 for conspiring to hide his work as a paid campaign consultant from federal campaign regulators.
Last week, Judge Janet Bond Arterton denied a request from Rowland’s lawyers aimed at triggering a new trial based on their assertion that prosecutors withheld evidence that could have helped Rowland’s case. But Arterton allowed Rowland’s lead attorney, Reid Weingarten, to file a memo to argue his case for a new trial.
In a document filed Wednesday, Weingarten restated his assertion that information from one of Rowland’s co-conspirators could have swayed the jury that convicted the former governor.
“Given the significance of the suppressed evidence, and the thinness of the Government’s case, the prejudice to Mr. Rowland is plain,” he wrote.
The argument is not new and is unlikely to deter Arterton from sentencing Rowland.
Although he was convicted by a jury in September, the former governor’s sentencing has been on hold since January as his lawyers argued they were denied access to statements by 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. The candidate and her husband 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.
However, Wilson-Foley was not called as a witness and in a post-trial court document her lawyer, Craig Raabe, argued that she initially believed Rowland was a campaign volunteer who was being paid for legitimate work at her husband’s company.
Weingarten contends he was unaware of Wilson-Foley’s position during trial and would likely have called her as a witness had he known.
“In short, the information available to Mr. Rowland prior to trial concerning Ms. Wilson-Foley’s perspective was limited and compromised by the misinformation in her interview memorandum. It was no substitute for the information disclosed in the Raabe Affidavit. In a case prosecuted based largely on circumstantial evidence, accurate and detailed information as to Ms. Wilson-Foley’s account was critical. The Government had it. Mr. Rowland did not,” Weingarten wrote Wednesday.
Prosecutors have maintained that Rowland’s defense team had access to information on Wilson-Foley’s perspective and say the former governor received a fair trial last year. Last week, Arterton agreed with them.
“In sum, [disclosure law] does not require or authorize the far-reaching post-trial discovery that Defendant seeks based on speculation regarding potential violations and Defendant has not identified any basis for the Court to conclude that discovery or a hearing is warranted. Defendant’s request for an evidentiary hearing and discovery is denied and this case will now proceed for sentencing on March 18, 2015, at 10:00 a.m.,” Arterton wrote.
This will be the second time Rowland faces a sentencing judge on March 18. On that date in 2005, he was sentenced to one year and one day in prison on charges related to taking illegal gifts while in office.
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 recommendation.