Day three of former Gov. John Rowland's federal campaign conspiracy trial continued in New Haven Federal Court today.
The man a Rowland lawyer called “the most important witness in this case” took the stand today.
Prosecutors say Rowland was paid $35,000 to work on Republican Lisa Wilson-Foley's 2012 congressional campaign, with money funneled through a phony contract with her husband's nursing home chain. It was Wilson-Foley's husband, Brian Foley, who was before judge and jury this afternoon.
Rowland's lead attorney, Reid Weingarten, said to the jury during opening remarks Wednesday, “I predict you won't believe his testimony."
Rowland's attorneys contend that in 2012 the Foleys defended Rowland, saying he did real work for Brian Foley's healthcare business. But, when the feds came calling, he changed his tune.
During his 50 minutes of testimony, Brian Foley said how much he admired Rowland for his political and business acumen. He also said that Rowland met with him and his wife about her campaign for the first time during the week of Sept. 12, 2011 to discuss their longtime friend becoming part of the campaign as a consultant.
As court adjourned for the day, Foley was telling the jury how he and his wife thought Rowland could do a lot for her campaign, but that it also could also hurt her candidacy.
Wilson-Foley’s former campaign manager, Tiffany Romero-Grossman, also took the stand.
She told the jury that when Wilson-Foley asked her for feedback on the prospect of bringing Rowland aboard, in a consulting capacity, Grossman testified that she told Wilson-Foley it would cause big problems for her campaign. First, because his affiliation would have to be on the Federal Elections Commission report, which would give traction to opposing campaigns who are able to review such reports. Grossman described that as “handing your opponent a loaded gun and saying shoot me."
On the defense's cross examination, Rowland attorney Will Drake asked Grossman if an in-kind contribution, such as volunteering, needs to be reported to the FEC. She said it did not. Drake’s goal, of course, was to try to establish that Rowland, a longtime Wilson-Foley friend, did a lot of in-kind work for her during both her 2012 congressional bid and a 2010 run for lieutenant governor.
Mark Greenberg, who is running for the 5th district congressional seat for the third time, is done testifying, but his former campaign manager, Marc Katz, also testified today about a deal Rowland proposed for Greenberg’s 2010 congressional run. The terms of the deal were strikingly similar to the one that got the Foleys convicted.
Katz, who describes himself as a friend of Greenberg’s since boyhood, told the jury that Greenberg's team knew they weren’t going to agree to Rowland’s terms, which would have included paying him through one of Greenberg’s real estate or charitable businesses. However, Katz admitted today he and Greenberg continued to string Rowland along for a period of eight months to see what political advice he'd offer them for free.
The trial resumes Monday morning at 9 a.m., with Brian Foley back on the stand.
Weingarten says, “There will not be a smidgen of evidence that my client intended to mislead the FEC.”