Ex-Connecticut Governor Rowland to appeal campaign finance conviction

NEW YORK Former Connecticut Governor John Rowland will urge a U.S. appeals court on Friday to set aside his conviction and 2-1/2-year prison sentence for trying to conceal his involvement in two congressional campaigns.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York is set to hear the appeal of Rowland, who spent 10 months in prison after pleading guilty in 2004 to charges arising from his acceptance of illegal gifts while he was governor.

Rowland, a Republican who resigned as governor in 2004 amid the prior investigation, was charged in a new federal case in 2014 for what prosecutors called a scheme to deceive voters and violate campaign finance laws.

A federal jury in New Haven found him guilty on charges of conspiracy, falsification of records in a federal investigation, causing false statements to be made to the Federal Election Commission, and causing illegal campaign contributions.

Rowland, 58, was sentenced in March 2015 to 2-1/2 years in prison but has been free on bail pending appeal.

Prosecutors said Rowland, 58, negotiated a deal to work for a nursing home company owned by Brian Foley to pay him $35,000 that was intended to compensate him for advising the 2012 congressional campaign of Foley’s wife, Lisa Wilson-Foley.

The goal was to avoid linking the Republican candidate to Rowland, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said Rowland also sought to advise another Republican congressional candidate, Mark Greenberg, who testified that in 2010 he rejected Rowland’s offer and a contract that would similarly conceal the ex-governor’s role.

Both Wilson-Foley and Greenberg lost their congressional bids.

In court papers filed with the appellate court, Rowland’s lawyer, Andrew Fish, argued the two contracts did not legally constitute falsified documents.

To criminalize them, Fish wrote, prosecutors sought an “unprecedented expansion” of a provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, passed after the Enron scandal, that prohibited corporate document-shredding to hide financial wrongdoing.

Fish also argued that prosecutors failed to disclose that Wilson-Foley told them during an interview she believed Rowland was being hired for a real job with the nursing home.

Had the defense known, Fish said, Rowland likely would have called Wilson-Foley as a witness.

Wilson-Foley and Foley both pleaded guilty to conspiring to make illegal campaign contributions. Wilson-Foley was sentenced last year to five months in prison, while Foley was sentenced to three months in a halfway house.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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