Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Karma catches up with Corruptikut's former Governor John G. Rowland

Former Gov. John G. Rowland of Connecticut arriving at federal court on Thursday. Credit Jessica Hill/Associated Press

Above picture and below article was originally [found here on New York Times online edition].

NEW HAVEN — Former Gov. John G. Rowland of Connecticut, who nearly a decade ago was forced to resign from office in disgrace, was found guilty in federal court on Friday of engaging in corrupt political acts even after serving prison time for his previous conviction.

The verdict came just one day after closing arguments and represented a second major downfall for the 57-year-old politician, who as a young man had been hailed as a rising star in the Republican Party.

Mr. Rowland was found guilty on seven counts, and faces a maximum sentence of 57 years in prison. He will be sentenced on Dec. 12 by Judge Janet Bond Arterton, who is known for being tough in public corruption cases.

For more than two weeks, jurors heard testimony regarding allegations that Mr. Rowland sought to inject himself illegally into two congressional campaigns in roundabout ways that would have concealed any payments for his work from campaign regulators and voters.

Just before the verdict, the judge asked Mr. Rowland to stand. His wife, Patty, leaned into his shoulder and gripped his left hand.

As the foreman read the guilty verdicts, sobs could be heard from Mr. Rowland’s relatives, and from one juror.

On the courthouse steps a few minutes later, Michael J. Gustafson, the chief of the criminal division of the United States attorney’s office, said, “Clearly, this is a sad day.” But he strongly defended the prosecution, handled by two of his assistant United States attorneys, Christopher M. Mattei and Liam Brennan, and aided by the United States postal inspectors.

Tweaking a remark that had been made by the defense a day earlier, Mr. Gustafson said: “I have heard it suggested that this case was not a criminal case, but simply politics as usual. It was far from that.” He said that transparency was a bedrock of the legal system. “What voters see is what they get,” he said. “The defendant today didn’t want that to happen.”

Six of the seven counts Mr. Rowland was found guilty of involved obstructing justice, conspiracy, falsifying documents relied on by federal regulators and other violations of campaign finance laws in connection with services he provided Lisa Wilson-Foley, a Republican candidate for Congress in 2012, and her husband, Brian Foley, an operator of nursing homes.

The Foleys pleaded guilty this year to related crimes and await sentencing. Mr. Foley served as the government’s star witness in Mr. Rowland’s trial.

Another of the seven counts, an obstruction charge, involved a contract Mr. Rowland drafted and presented to Mark Greenberg, a Republican congressional candidate in the 2010 election. That contract was never executed and Mr. Greenberg testified at Mr. Rowland’s trial that he ripped it up for lack of interest.

Mr. Rowland’s lawyer, Reid H. Weingarten, told reporters outside the courthouse, “We’re extremely disappointed with the verdict.” He said the defense always believed that the prosecution team made far too much of “an all-too-political dust-up” and that it was “very much looking forward to litigating this case” further, he added. Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story

This was the second time a case named “U.S.A. v. John G. Rowland” had landed at the federal courthouse in New Haven. In 2004, Mr. Rowland had to step down from office midway through his third term to halt an impeachment inquiry. Within months, he pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit tax fraud and deprive taxpayers of his honest services, for which he served 10 months in prison.

Moreover, his reputation was in tatters after years of battling allegations that he had accepted renovations at his lakeside cottage, including a hot tub, expensive vacations and other free services from politically connected businessmen and vendors seeking state contracts.

“I acknowledge that my poor judgment has brought us here,” Mr. Rowland said in June 2004 as he announced his resignation on the back lawn of the governor’s mansion with his wife by his side.

For the 13 days he was back in federal court this month, his wife remained a close supporter, clutching his hand tightly as they walked outside at day’s end and faced the cameras.

Legally, Mr. Rowland could have worked for a candidate’s campaign and received payment, had it been properly reported. Mr. Rowland’s problem, as Mr. Mattei told the jury, was that candidates valued his experience but his criminal history made the association too risky.

“Hiring John Rowland on your campaign is like giving your opponent a loaded gun and saying, ‘Shoot me,’ ” Mr. Mattei said, quoting the testimony of one of Ms. Wilson-Foley’s campaign aides.

With much of the government’s case hinging on dozens of incriminating emails and on Brian Foley’s testimony, Mr. Weingarten sought to undercut Mr. Foley’s credibility. He challenged jurors to ask themselves how it was that Mr. Foley gave his wife $500,000, which she slowly added to her campaign funds, along with other donations he arranged from family and associates, without running afoul of campaign laws. He also expressed outrage at how Mr. Foley and his wife were allowed by prosecutors to plead guilty to only one misdemeanor, even though they could have been charged more harshly.

Testifying before the court, Mr. Foley explained how he had a corporate lawyer for Apple Rehab, his nursing home chain, hire Mr. Rowland as cover for his work as a political consultant to Ms. Wilson-Foley.

The defense team maintained that Mr. Rowland’s work for Apple Rehab was legitimate, but the prosecution called in a retired postal inspector, Mark Borofsky, who testified to the wide disparity between the volume of emails and phone calls Mr. Rowland made while doing campaign work and those that related to the nursing home business.

“It’s bittersweet, in the sense that justice has been done,” said Mike Clark, a former agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation who played key roles in both of Mr. Rowland’s convictions.

In 2004, he was charged with investigating public corruption and with the help of colleagues gathered much of the evidence that led to Mr. Rowland’s conviction. In the current case, Mr. Clark, who now teaches criminal justice classes at the University of New Haven, was a Republican contender in the same 2012 congressional race as Ms. Wilson-Foley, and spotted some of the irregularities that helped unravel the scheme.

“The jury certainly accepted what was charged in the indictment,” Mr. Clark said.

The bitter part, he added, was that Connecticut’s corrupt politicians have alienated the young adults he teaches from the political process. “They’ve lost their trust in the democratic process,” he said. “That’s the sad part; that’s the legacy John Rowland is leaving.”

Correction: September 19, 2014

An earlier version of this article misspelled the given name of a retired postal inspector who testified at former Gov. John G. Rowland’s trial. He is Mark Borofsky, not Marc.

Marc Santora contributed reporting.

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John G. Rowland's corruption did not occur in a vacuum.When will victims of Connecticut's Culture of Corruption be compensated and have some corrections made to their ruined lives?

Why isn't M. Jodie Rell also being prosecuted for election rigging and/or election fraud? [This post also contains Steven G. Erickson's text of letter to arrive for John G. Rowland's first stint in Federal Prison]