Exactly 10 years after he was sentenced to a year in prison for accepting illegal gifts while in office, former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland learned that he will spend 30 months in prison on convictions in a campaign fraud case.
The 57-year-old Republican, who served as Connecticut’s governor from 1995 until his resignation in 2004, learned his fate in federal court in New Haven on Wednesday. He left the courthouse and got into a car without commenting to reporters following the sentencing.
Rowland will begin serving his sentence on June 16. U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton recommended that he report to Otisville prison.
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The former governor is scheduled to attend his stepson's wedding and Arterton said she would take that into account for Rowland's surrender. His defense team said there will be an appeal.
Following his prison term, Rowland will spend three years on supervised release, plus a year for an additional charge, to run concurrently.
A jury convicted Rowland in September of conspiring to hide payments for work he did on the failed 2012 GOP congressional campaign of Lisa Wilson-Foley, and of trying to strike a similar deal in 2010 with another Republican congressional candidate, Mark Greenberg.
Prosecutors said in court Wednesday that Rowland's prior sentence of a year and a day was not enough to put him on the straight and narrow. They alleged that Rowland has shown he's unwilling to admit his involvement in a crime.
The prosecution said Rowland is loved by his family and by some in the community, but called the case a "full blown conspiracy" and said the former governor still has a debt to pay. Prosecutors pushed for a longer sentence of nearly four years.
Defense attorney Reid Weingarten, on the other hand, called the indictments the most "overcharged" he has ever seen, then asking the judge to right the imbalance with her sentence.
"From day one in this case, I have viewed it the same way as I view it today, that is, there was an allegation that a losing candidate in a Republican primary had not filed full and complete financial disclosure statements. In many years of practice, that allegation would have resolved easily and softly, but this one didn’t," he said. "All this hullabaloo is for one reason only and that is the involvement of John Rowland."
But the judge said Rowland's crimes violated the federal law, which are in place so the public can see what's going on.
"What is striking and disturbing is Mr. Rowland's contempt for those laws," Arterton said.
Rowland decided not to speak at his sentencing, but five people provided character statements, including his wife, Patricia Rowland, who said she's never seen her husband say no to anyone who has asked for help, no matter who they are.
Patricia Rowland said the couple has gone through its savings, adding that John Rowland has lost his job, which she hopes is punishment enough. She told the court that she and John have aging parents who live locally, and they are worried what a jail sentence will mean.
Also speaking on Rowland's behalf was the director of a non-profit Rowland worked with, who said Rowland always steps in to help, even if that meant cleaning the floors without being asked.
Rev. Will Marotti, of New Life Church in Wallingford, said Rowland has always been a loving, supportive husband to his wife, no matter what stress he was under.
"Your honor, John Rowland is not a bad man," Marotti said, asking the judge to be merciful. "I don't believe John Rowland belongs in prison."
He recalled Rowland's actions and sympathy for the victims of the 9/11 terror attacks and said he reached out to the families.
Attorney Jim Bergenn said he's a Democrat and never voted for Rowland, but reached out to him to speak to a client of his and Rowland accepted. Bergenn said Rowland's character is revealed through virtuous acts when no one is looking.
Julianne Rowland, John Rowland's youngest daughter, said her dad is the most caring person she knows. He's been there for the big moments, all the little days in between and needs to be there for the next chapters of her life, asking the judge to consider that.
After the character statements, Weingarten argued that the government was over the top in its brief to the court when they said Rowland is a threat to democracy in Connecticut.
"We are very much looking forward to appealing this case. We think we have a brimful of interesting, important and compelling legal issues, and we are optimistic that this miscarriage of justice will be overturned," he said.
Arterton previously denied Rowland's motion for a new trial.
A defense attorney has argued that the trial would have been different had prosecutors disclosed that Wilson-Foley told them she initially believed her husband had a legitimate business relationship with Rowland, apart from his role with the campaign.