Rowland rolls dice

The trial of former Connecticut governor and convicted felon John G. Rowland is set to begin this week in federal court in New Haven. Mr. Rowland is likely spending more on his team of Washington, D.C., defense lawyers than the $35,000 federal prosecutors alleged he received in violation of federal campaign spending disclosure laws.

In hopes of creating reasonable doubt, the public can expect an impressive defense effort to confuse the jury about who the real bad guys were in this sordid affair and complicate their decision by exploiting the complexity of federal law.

This is a big gamble for the former governor, who in 2004 resigned from office and spent 10 months in prison for accepting bribes from business executives seeking state contracts or tax breaks. Ten years ago, Mr. Rowland agreed to a plea bargain. This time he rejected an offer to plead guilty to two misdemeanors and return to prison for a short time.

In opting for his day in court, Mr. Rowland confronts five felony and two misdemeanor charges and the potential for substantial prison time if convicted.

How ever the trial turns out, Mr. Rowland again demonstrated reckless behavior and a lack of integrity in becoming involved in what the Hartford Courant aptly characterized as a "low-rent conspiracy."

Briefly recapping, businessman Brian Foley and his wife, former 5th District congressional candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley, pleaded guilty to conspiring with Mr. Rowland and will testify against him in return for leniency. Their sentencing awaits.

They are expected to testify that Ms. Wilson-Foley wanted Mr. Rowland to work for her as a campaign consultant, but due to Mr. Rowland's ethically challenged past, did not want anyone to know about it. At the time, Mr. Rowland hosted his drive-time radio talk show on WTIC-AM, giving him the chance to promote Ms. Wilson-Foley and knock her opponents. But that would only work if no one knew Mr. Rowland's link to the campaign.

So Mr. Foley hired the ex-governor as a consultant to his nursing home chain - wink, wink - while really paying him for his political acumen, the prosecution alleges.

"I think this arrangement is going to work out better than either one of us had anticipated," Mr. Rowland emailed to Mr. Foley.

We suspect Mr. Rowland has reassessed that opinion.

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