Rowland Trial Gets Underway; May Hinge on Cryptic Email

Former Governor John G. Rowland’s federal conspiracy trial gets underway in New Haven on Wednesday. He’s facing charges of violating federal campaign laws by allegedly hiding his role as a campaign consultant in a 2012 congressional race.

The trial may hinge on a cryptic email in which the life-long politician acknowledges an offer to become a paid consultant for a nursing home owned by the husband of a political candidate. In the email, Rowland tells Brian Foley, “I get it.”

Rowland was paid $35,000 for his services. The government alleges the email is evidence of a conspiracy to hide Rowland’s actual job as a consultant in the congressional campaign of Lisa Wilson-Foley, a Republican who was running for Connecticut’s fifth congressional district seat.

Rowland’s attorneys argue that their client didn’t break any laws, and that he was simply showing that he understood that the Foleys wanted him to work for the business, and not the campaign. The attorneys are attempting to block any other interpretation of the email by Foley, who pleaded guilty in March — along with her husband — to conspiring to make illegal campaign contributions for her role in the alleged conspiracy. The plea was in exchange for becoming witnesses for the prosecution.

“It never helps to have the other people in your alleged conspiracy who concede that they violated the law, and then testify against you,” said William Dunlap, professor of criminal law, and associate dean of the Quinnipiac University School of Law.

Rowland turned down a plea deal from federal prosecutors that would have resulted in an 18 month prison stay. If Rowland is found guilty on the seven election fraud charges, he could face up to 60 months in federal prison.

Rowland served ten months in prison for a 2004 corruption charge that led to his resignation.

This report includes information from The Associated Press.