NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) Former Governro John Rowland, who resigned from office a decade ago in a corruption scandal, was convicted Friday of federal charges that he conspired to hide payment for work on two congressional campaigns.
Rowland, once a rising star for the Republican Party, served 10 months in prison for taking illegal gifts while in office and now as a repeat offender faces the possibility of a much stiffer sentence.
The government's case centered around a contract between Rowland and a nursing home chain owned by the husband of 2012 congressional candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley. Rowland's attorneys argued he volunteered for the campaign while receiving $35,000 to consult for her husband's company, but prosecutors said the money was an illegal payment for campaign services.
Rowland was convicted in New Haven federal court of all seven counts, including conspiracy, falsifying records in a federal investigation, causing false statements to be made to the Federal Election Commission and causing illegal campaign contributions.
Rowland was elected to the U.S. House three times, governor three times and served as chairman of the national Republican Governors Association. He had been mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate or cabinet member before he was impeached and resigned.
He was released from prison in 2006 and began rebuilding his life, landing a job as an economic development coordinator before becoming host of a popular radio show. In his first interview after leaving prison, the man known for his charm and quick wit said he had faith God would steer him down a different path.
"When you lose your freedom, it's a very humbling experience," he said.
But he found himself in the crosshairs of federal investigators once again as he pursued a return to politics.
Much of the evidence against Rowland came from email correspondence, such as one in which he wrote to Wilson-Foley's husband, Brian Foley, shortly after proposing he become a paid political consultant for his wife. Foley testified during the trial that Wilson-Foley wanted Rowland's help but for her primary campaign believed his involvement, if made public, would attract negative publicity.
"Had a brief chat with Lisa. I get it. Let's you and I meet," Rowland wrote to Foley.
In March, the Foleys each pleaded guilty to conspiring to make illegal campaign contributions, a misdemeanor. Brian Foley became the government's star witness, testifying that he paid Rowland for campaign work and the work he did for Foley's company, Apple Health Care Inc., was only cursory.
Rowland's lawyers attacked Foley's credibility, showing he illegally funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to his wife's campaign and could have faced significant prison time if he had not cut a deal. They argue the former governor was unaware of any conspiracy to keep Rowland happy in his campaign work by paying him through Apple.
Rowland did not testify in his own defense and his lawyers presented one witness, Apple executive Brian Bedard, who testified that Rowland did real work for him and he did not believe the contract was a sham.
Rowland was also accused of trying to cut a similar business deal with another politician.
Mark Greenberg, a Republican who is again running for Congress this year, testified that Rowland proposed becoming a consultant to his 2010 campaign while being paid as though he was working for the candidate's animal rescue organization. Greenberg said he turned down the proposal from Rowland. Rowland's lawyers argued that he never ended up working for Greenberg and no crime was committed.
Convictions on all the charges carried a possible maximum prison sentence of 57 years.