Former Gov. John Rowland Pleads Not Guilty to Federal Charges

Former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland has pleaded not guilty to federal charges related to alleged illegal activity in two congressional campaigns.

A federal grand jury in New Haven returned a seven-count indictment against Rowland on Thursday. Rowland served as governor of Connecticut from 1995 until he resigned in 2004 to face federal corruption charges. He spent 10 months in prison.

He arrived at a federal courthouse on Friday and entered the not-guilty plea.

He agreed to a $250,000 non-surety bond, and his travel has been restricted to Connecticut.

According to the indictment, Rowland devised a scheme in October 2009 to work for the campaign of a candidate running for U.S. House of Representatives in Connecticut's Fifth District during the 2009 and 2010 election cycle. The indictment alleges Rowland tried to conceal the fact that he was being paid for the campaign work from the Federal Elections Commission and from the public.

The indictment also includes allegations that Rowland tried to hide his work with Lisa Wilson Foley on her campaign for the Fifth District during the 2011 and 2012 election cycle by being paid for nominal services for work at a nursing home owned by Wilson Foley's husband, Brian Foley.

Wilson Foley wanted Rowland to work on her 2012 primary campaign but believed that because he had been convicted of a felony, disclosure of his paid role in the campaign would result in substantial negative publicity for her candidacy, prosecutors said.

In one email, authorities say, Rowland wrote that "I want to stay under the radar as much as possible" and that "after Clark gets out of the race it can be different."

Mike Clark, a former FBI agent, was a candidate in the Republican primary and filed a federal elections complaint over the payments made to Rowland. Clark also had been the agent who investigated the earlier case that ultimately sent Rowland to prison.

Rowland was paid about $35,000 for services to the campaign, authorities said. The payments originated with Foley and constituted campaign contributions but were not reported to the Federal Election Commission, in violation of federal campaign finance laws, prosecutors said

Rowland was elected governor three times and was a rising star in the GOP, serving as chairman of the national Republican Governors Association. He was a friend of former President George H. W. Bush and had been mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate or cabinet member.

After he was released from prison, Rowland promised "to be a better person" and landed a job as an economic development coordinator. He also became a popular AM radio commentator.

Lisa Wilson Foley and Brian Foley pleaded guilty last month to charges they violated federal campaign laws in connection with the scheme. At the time of the guilty pleas, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice confirmed Rowland was an unnamed co-conspirator in the case.

Wilson-Foley, who lost the Republican primary, and her husband each face up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000 at sentencing.

Rowland was charged with two counts of falsification of records in a federal investigation, two counts of causing false statements to be made to the FEC, two counts of causing illegal campaign contributions and one count of conspiracy.

Rowland's attorney said the case will go to trial and they are eager to go to trial.

The trial is tentatively scheduled for June 10.

The total charges carry a maximum of more than 50 years in prison if Rowland is convicted.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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