By Nate Raymond
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former Connecticut Governor John Rowland on Friday urged a federal appeals court to overturn his conviction on charges that the Republican tried to use sham contracts to hide his political work in two U.S. congressional campaigns, saying prosecutors went too far in applying the law.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York heard arguments over whether Rowland used illegal consulting contracts for candidates who in 2010 and 2012 ran unsuccessfully for the House of Representatives.
Rowland, who was sentenced to 2-1/2 years in prison in March 2015, is free on bail during his appeal. He had previously spent 10 months in prison following his 2004 guilty plea to separate charges arising from his acceptance of illegal gifts while he was governor. Rowland resigned from office that year.
Andrew Fish, Rowland's lawyer, told the appeals court on Friday that a draft contract rejected by one of the candidates, Mark Greenberg, did not constitute a falsified document.
"Frankly, the government saying that a contract proposal is a falsified document makes little sense," Fish said.
He said prosecutors went too far in trying to criminalize Rowland's conduct under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, a governance law passed after Enron Corp's collapse, that prohibits falsifying documents to hide financial wrongdoing.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Liam Brennan countered that the case was in the "heartland" of the statute. "This is creating a fake record to have in the file in case there is an investigation," he said.
A federal jury in New Haven found Rowland guilty in March 2015 on charges of conspiracy, falsifying records in a federal investigation, causing false statements to be made to the Federal Election Commission, and causing illegal campaign contributions.
Prosecutors said Rowland, 58, sought to advise Greenberg, who testified that in 2010 he rejected Rowland's offer and a contract to conceal the ex-governor's role.
Rowland was also accused of negotiating a deal to work for a nursing home company owned by Brian Foley, the husband of 2012 congressional candidate, Lisa Wilson-Foley, and receive $35,000 intended to compensate him for advising her campaign.
Wilson-Foley and Foley pleaded guilty to conspiring to make illegal campaign contributions. Wilson-Foley received a five-month prison term, while Foley was sentenced to three months in a halfway house.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Peter Cooney and Richard Chang)