A federal appeals court upheld former Gov. John G. Rowland’s conviction for violating campaign laws during the 2010 and 2012 Congressional contest in Connecticut’s 5th Congressional District.
Rowland was sentenced to 30 months in prison last March for seven election law violations. He was accused of hiding $35,000 in payments for work he did on Republican Lisa Wilson-Foley’s campaign through a sham contract with the nursing home chain run by Wilson-Foley’s husband, Brian Foley.
Foley testified during Rowland’s trial that the former governor’s contract with his nursing home chain, Apple Rehab, was a sham designed to pay him for campaign work. The reason the campaign sought to hide Rowland’s work was due to his previous conviction following his 2004 resignation amid a corruption scandal.
Rowland’s lawyers argued in court documents that prosecutors withheld information from them regarding that consulting contract and Wilson-Foley’s perception of the work the former governor was doing for her husband and the campaign.
Rowland’s attorneys argued on appeal that the government withheld information that Wilson-Foley perceived the work the former governor was doing for her campaign was being conducted on a volunteer basis, and she believed he was working as a consultant for her husband. Rowland’s attorneys argued if they had known that they would have put her on the stand.
That was part of their appeal, but a three-judge panel didn’t believe that was enough to overturn the conviction or the sentence.
The 31-page decision written by Judge Susan Carney, who was joined by Judges Ralph Winter and Denny Chin, concluded that “Rowland was properly convicted because he created or participated in the creation of documents that misrepresented — or ‘falsified’ — his relationships with the Congressional candidates, Wilson-Foley and Mark Greenberg, and he did so with the intent to impede a possible future federal investigation.”
Rowland had pitched a similar sham contract to Greenberg in 2010 where the campaign work would have been funneled through Greenberg’s nonprofit Simon Foundation. Greenberg rejected the offer.
Rowland and his attorneys also asserted that because Rowland’s work for the nursing home chain was memorialized in a contract with attorney Christian Shelton, contract law prevents the court from concluding anything illegal happened.
“We reject Rowland’s assertion that principles of contract law prevent us from concluding that documents styled as contracts are ‘falsified’ within the meaning of the statute,” Carney wrote.
As for arguments that Rowland’s work for the nursing home chain was legitimate, the appeals court noted that Rowland participated in 787 email exchanges about the campaign, but only 63 email exchanges regarding Apple, and 23 email exchanges about both.
“The record supports the court’s conclusion that the legitimate services Rowland performed for Apple were inseparably intertwined with the services he performed for Wilson-Foley’s campaign, and that Rowland would not have performed services for Apple at all but for his planned cover up,” wrote Carney.
Rowland has been free on bond pending the appeal, but prosecutors could ask for the bond to be called, which means Rowland will be required to start serving his sentence. Locke Lord attorney Andrew Fish, Rowland’s appeals attorney, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Rowland and his attorney could also ask the appeal to be heard by the full court. He could also petition the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case.
During his sentencing last year Rowland asked to serve his time at the Federal Bureau of Prisons facility in Otisville, N.Y.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment on the decision.