NEW HAVEN, Connecticut — Former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for a political consulting scheme on Wednesday, exactly one decade after he was ordered behind bars in an earlier scandal that forced him from office.
Rowland, once a rising star in the Republican Party, committed the latest crimes as he maneuvered to insert himself in two separate congressional political campaigns. He was convicted in September on charges that he conspired to conceal payment for the work, which he knew would bring unwelcome publicity to the candidates because of his criminal history.
Prosecutors said Rowland was paid $35,000 to work on the failed 2012 campaign of Republican congressional candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley and conspired to hide those payments through a sham consulting contract with a business owned by her husband, Brian Foley. They say he tried to strike a similar deal in 2010 with another failed GOP congressional candidate, Mark Greenberg.
Rowland, 57, wearing a dark gray suit with a purple tie, declined to comment during the sentencing hearing and as he left the federal courthouse in New Haven on a sunny but cold and windy day. He hugged his wife and daughter in the courtroom after they testified about his good deeds and commitment to public and community service, but he showed little emotion for the most part.
Reid Weingarten, Rowland's lawyer, called the case a miscarriage of justice that was a civil elections law matter at best and said Rowland will appeal. Rowland, who also was fined $35,000, was ordered to surrender to federal prison authorities to begin his sentence June 16, but he is expected to request to remain free on bail during the appeal.
Federal prosecutor Liam Brennan argued that Rowland's sentence needed to send a strong message, especially with this being his second conviction. Rowland was sentenced to a year and a day in prison in 2005 for taking illegal gifts when he was governor, including trips and improvements to his lakeside cottage in northwestern Connecticut.
U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton agreed with Brennan, saying Rowland's crimes threatened to undermine the integrity of America's election system and its laws.
"What is striking and disturbing is Mr. Rowland's total contempt for those laws," Arterton said. "It is really not clear ... what his motivation was to ... be involved in this sort of activity. Perhaps it's lust for influence, but it nonetheless cannot be tolerated."
Wilson-Foley and her husband pleaded guilty in the case. Wilson-Foley awaits sentencing, while Foley was sentenced to three years of probation.
It was the second stunning fall from grace for Rowland, who staged a comeback after his first prison term and became an afternoon AM radio talk show host. Arterton, however, said it was "shameless" how Rowland used the radio show to promote Wilson-Foley.
Rowland, a Waterbury native, was elected to the state House of Representatives in 1980 at the age of 23, then won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1984 at the age of 27 and served six years. He served as governor from 1995 to 2004, when he resigned amid his corruption scandal.
Rowland was chairman of the Republican Governors Association from 2001 to 2002 and was mentioned in political circles as a possible vice presidential candidate and cabinet member.
But while he was governor, Rowland was fined $2,000 and ordered to donate $1,919 to charity in a 1997 ethics case for taking concert tickets from subordinates. He also was fined $9,000 in 2003 for accepting cut-rate or free vacation lodging from state contractors.
Rowland's wife, Patricia, and his daughter, Julianne, testified at the sentencing hearing that Rowland was a caring husband and father who selflessly volunteered for numerous community causes and helped people in need. Patricia Rowland said her husband had lost everything he had worked for, and they lost all their life savings over the past two years, suggesting that was punishment enough.
"He is a loyal and kind friend and he treats people equally and he is respectful to everyone," Patricia Rowland said. "He has never shied away from a request for help."