For the second time in 10 years, former Gov. John Rowland is heading to prison.
After facing a maximum sentence of 57 years in prison on counts that included conspiracy, obstructing justice and falsifying documents, the former Republican governor was sentenced to 30 months in jail Wednesday.
In September, a jury in federal court found Rowland guilty of secretly collecting campaign consulting fees from congressional candidates. Rowland was allegedly paid $35,000 to work on the failed 2012 congressional big of Republican Lisa Wilson-Foley, payments the former governor conspired to hide through a consulting contract with Apple Rehab, a a nursing home company owned by her husband, Brian Foley SPH ’81.
Both Wilson-Foley and her husband pled guilty in the case.
Prosecutors also accused Rowland of trying to strike a similar deal in 2010 with another failed GOP congressional candidate, Mark Greenberg. His actions were found to be in violation of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, which limits financial influence in the election of candidates for federal office.
The reason Rowland conspired to hide the payments, prosecutors argued: Rowland’s reputation was too noxious for candidates to publicly affiliate themselves with him.
The sentencing comes precisely one decade after Rowland was first sentenced to prison for a year and a day, also for political corruption. The youngest elected governor in the state’s history and once seen as a rising star in the Republican party, Rowland’s career came to an abrupt end after he stepped down from the governorship to avoid impeachment and pled guilty to tax fraud.
In addition to the prison sentence, meted out by U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton, Rowland received a $35,000 fine.
At the sentencing hearing, Arterton said that Rowland’s actions showed “total contempt” for campaign laws.
However, Reid Weingarten, Rowland’s top lawyer, said at the hearing that an appeal is forthcoming. At the hearing, he argued that the charges against Rowland were the most “overcharged indictments” he had ever seen, suggesting that there was a “witch hunt” against the former governor.
Weingarten added that he believed the charges were increased due to Rowland’s previous offenses. During the prosecution’s statement, attorneys for the government said that prison time was not enough to “put him on the straight and narrow.”
Since his sentencing, Rowland has made multiple attempts to gain a retrial, each of which have been denied. The most recent attempt to overturn his conviction and gain a re-trial was denied by Arterton on Monday.
At the sentencing hearing, the defense presented five people to speak on behalf of Rowland who claimed his indictment was over-stretched due to Rowland’s status as a public figure. The judge heard from his Patricia Rowland, his youngest child, Attorney Jim Bergenn, his pastor Rev. Will Marrotti and the director of a non-profit who he once worked with. All five praised Rowland’s character, describing him as a loving husband and father.
“John Rowland is not the bad, deceptive or manipulative person some have tried to portray him [as],” Marrotti told the judge during the sentencing.
In 2005, Rowland conceded that he had “lost sight of his ethical judgment,” but at Wednesday’s hearing, he did not speak.
On the morning of March 18 — before the sentence was announced — the Associated Press reported that federal prosecutors were expected to urge a judge to impose a nearly four-year prison sentence that would “finally and fully” address Rowland’s “troubling personal history.”
In the formal sentencing request to Arterton, sent on Nov. 24, 2014, federal prosecutors Michael Gustafson, Liam Brennan and Christopher Mattei wrote that the evidence in the case indicates that Rowland did not learn from previous transgressions.
“Mr. Rowland is an individual who simply refuses to ‘play it straight,’” the statement said. “He delights in the illicit, dark side of politics where rules are for suckers, the public good is an afterthought, the game is all that matters and he is the indispensable player of that game.”
They added that the court’s sentence should ensure that the people of Connecticut are “spared further harm.”
In a press release after the sentence was handed down, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gustafson said it is disheartening to see a former government official choose to deceive voters and violate laws that were established to ensure fair and open elections.
“Hopefully, today’s sentence will deter both this defendant from future criminal behavior and all who may consider ignoring campaign financing laws,” the press release read.
In addition to the prison sentence, Rowland received three years of probation upon completion of his prison sentence and a $35,000 fine.