Ex-Connecticut governor asks court to overturn conviction

AP News
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Posted: Mar 18, 2016 1:32 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — A lawyer for former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland asked a federal appeals court Friday to overturn his client's corruption conviction, arguing the government too broadly applied a federal law.

But a government lawyer told the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City that the conviction should stand, claiming prosecutors rightly charged the Republican with falsifying documents to hide political work he did in two congressional campaigns.

Rowland was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison last year for allegedly conspiring to disguise work he did on a failed 2012 congressional campaign and a 2010 campaign. This is the second political conviction case for Rowland, who in 2004 resigned amid a corruption scandal, eventually serving 10 months in prison for taking illegal gifts.

"We can't comment," he told reporters after leaving a Manhattan federal courthouse. He is free on bail.

Rowland's attorney, Andrew Fish, was questioned repeatedly by judges to justify why a federal statute designed to prevent falsifying documents to cover-up wrongdoing shouldn't apply to a 2009 contract for services between Rowland and a 2010 candidate for Congress named Mark Greenberg.

Fish argued that the agreement was a cut-and-paste general contracting agreement that wasn't manipulated and made no mention of political consulting.

"I don't think any jury could find this was a fabricated document," he said.

But an assistant U.S. attorney, Liam Brennan, said the document was created wholesale to obscure an untoward arrangement for paid political services disguised as other work and thus was falsified.

"This is creating a fake record to have in the file in case of an investigation," he said.

Prosecutors successfully argued that Rowland was paid $35,000 to give political consulting to Lisa Wilson-Foley, who in 2012 was running for the 5th congressional district. They say while Rowland claimed to have volunteered for the campaign, the payment was disguised in a contract between Rowland and Wilson-Foley's husband, who owned a nursing home chain.

Rowland also tried the same arrangement with Greenberg in the 2010 election cycle, prosecutors charged.

Wilson-Foley and her husband have pleaded guilty to misdemeanor conspiracy to make an illegal campaign donation.

Rowland, who was elected three times to the U.S. House of Representatives, is a past chairman of the Republican Governors Association who had been considered a possible vice presidential candidate before he was impeached and resigned.