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Twice-Convicted CT Governor Gets 30 Months

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (CN) - A federal judge with a reputation for being tough on corruption burnished that record Wednesday in giving former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland 30 months in prison for hiding campaign work from election regulators.

The sentence comes 10 years after Rowland's first sentencing on charges related to illegally accepting gifts while in office.

In this, his second felony conviction, Rowland was fined $35,000 and must surrender on June 16 to begin his incarceration. Rowland was unapologetic and opted not to speak during Wednesday's hearing. He will file a motion to be free on bond while his attorneys work on an appeal.

After U.S. Attorney Liam Brennan emphasized to the court that it heard "no contrition" from Rowland, the former governor's wife, Patty, told the prosecutor after Wednesday's proceedings had concluded to "burn in hell."

In sentencing Rowland, U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton said her decision had nothing to do with his past conviction. She said it was about violations of federal campaign laws.

"The court has received many letters in the course of this prosecution and one of them read: 'I don't believe anyone was honestly hurt in this latest conviction,'" Arterton said. "This is a different kind of crime from street crime or financial fraud, but I disagree that nobody was hurt."

What was "striking and disturbing" about the case for Arterton was Rowland's total "contempt" for the Federal Election Commission's reporting laws and his use of his radio show to try to give his client, Lisa Wilson-Foley, an advantage in her campaign to win the Republican nomination for the 5th Congressional District.

Rowland was convicted of failing to report work he did for Wilson-Foley's congressional campaign in 2012. The court found him guilty of working as an adviser to that campaign and arranging his compensation through a contract with the successful health care company that Wilson-Foley's husband ran. The candidate and her husband, Brian Foley, pleaded guilty last year to related charges.

Foley testified during Rowland's trial that the former governor's contract was a sham designed to pay him for campaign work.

Rowland's lawyers had recently argued in court documents that prosecutors withheld information from them regarding the consulting contract, and Wilson-Foley's perception of the work the former governor was doing for her husband and the campaign.

Making up for his client's silence in court Wednesday, attorney Reid Weingarten told the court that what happened in the case amounted to nothing more than a "civil matter" with the FEC.

Saying that there never should have been an indictment, Weingartem asked why the co-conspirators in the case, like Foley, were charged with lesser crimes.

Weingarten said Foley admitted during the trial to the largest conduit contribution he could recall. Foley testified that he transferred $500,000 to his wife to use on her failed congressional campaign. Weingarten speculated that the federal government had a "near obsession" with Rowland and believed the sentence that the former received in 2005 for accepting illegal gifts while in office wasn't harsh enough.

Maybe he was "too noisy and too aggressive on his radio show," Weingarten said.

Outside the courtroom, Pastor Will Marotti, who co-hosted the WTIC 1080AM radio show with Rowland, told reporters that he doesn't believe his friend should apologize.

"I don't think any law was broken," Marotti said.

Inside the courtroom, Marotti told Arterton that Rowland "is not a bad man."

"He is not a deceptive or manipulative person as some have tried to portray him," the pastor said, adding that he sees Rowland as a "casualty of circumstances."

Brennan, the prosecutor, told Arterton that the sentencing guidelines, which allowed for 24 to 30 months, are flawed and should allow for a harsher sentence. He said Rowland was running a "shadow campaign" and hasn't learned much since his past conviction.

Rowland, who co-hosted WTIC's afternoon radio show, had by all accounts made a "comeback." But prosecutors argued in court documents that instead of learning from his past mistakes he fell back into old habits.

"In the government's view, Mr. Rowland is an individual who simply refuses to 'play it straight,' because he delights in the illicit, dark side of politics where rules are for suckers, the public good is an afterthought, the game is all that matters, and he is the indispensable player of that game," the government's sentencing memo says.

In court Wednesday, Brennan described Rowland as "an operative leveraging his influence not just with party delegates, but over the airwaves."

The only reason the crime ended was "because the conspirators got caught," Brennan said, adding that Rowland was unwilling to take responsibility for being involved in a scheme that spanned two campaigns.

Rowland's conviction stems both from his work for Wilson-Foley in 2012 and for trying to come up with a similar working relationship with Republican Mark Greenberg in 2010, during his bid for the same congressional seat, the prosecutor said.

Arterton decided to apply guidelines that allowed for between 24 and 30 months, instead of the government's call for a harsher sentence of 40 to 46 months.

Through his attorneys, Rowland requested that he serve his time at the Federal Bureau of Prisons facility in Otisville, N.Y.

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