By Richard Weizel
NEW HAVEN Conn. (Reuters) - The first defense witness in the trial of former Connecticut Governor John Rowland testified on Monday that Rowland performed legitimate consulting services for a nursing home company, countering prosecutors who say he worked under a phony contract in violation of federal campaign laws.
Rowland attended numerous meetings with top executives of Apple Healthcare in 2011 and 2012, and offered “helpful advice” to the company, its chief operating officer Brian Bedard said on Monday.
Earlier on Monday, after nearly two weeks of testimony in U.S. District Court in New Haven, the prosecution rested its case against Rowland, 57, who served prison time a decade ago on political corruption charges.
Prosecutors contend that the former Republican governor worked as a political adviser on the 2012 Republican congressional campaign of Lisa Wilson-Foley while being paid $35,000 through a phony contract with Apple, her husband Brian Foley’s business.
Federal campaign law requires candidates to disclose all paid consultants. Prosecutors say Wilson-Foley and her husband hid Rowland's role as a paid adviser to avoid negative publicity for her campaign, which was unsuccessful.
Rowland, who says he was a volunteer on the Wilson-Foley campaign, has pleaded not guilty to seven counts of violating federal campaign laws.
In his testimony, Bedard said Rowland actively participated in Apple's efforts to modernize and deal with the threat of unionization, and made other recommendations.
“The healthcare and nursing home industry was changing and Brian hired him as a consultant to help us move forward,” Bedard testified. “He knew the politics and practical ways to speed along Medicaid payments that were often delayed by between nine months to a year.”
Bedard was asked by defense attorney Reid Weingarten if he believed Rowland’s involvement with the company was a ruse designed to hide his role as a paid consultant for the Wilson-Foley campaign. “No, never, absolutely not,” Bedard said.
Earlier, Rowland’s defense team gave notice that it would ask U.S. District Court Judge Janet Arterton to dismiss all charges against him due to a lack of evidence.
Rowland served as governor from 1995 to 2004, when he pleaded guilty to accepting gifts from people who had been awarded lucrative state contracts. He served 10 months in prison.
In March, Wilson-Foley and Foley pleaded guilty to conspiring to make illegal campaign contributions, and Foley agreed to testify against Rowland at trial.
(Editing by Frank McGurty and Eric Walsh)