Brian Foley at federal court in New Haven for his sentencing Friday. MARK PAZNIOKAS / CTMIRROR.ORG

New Haven — Brian Foley, the millionaire who illegally bought the consulting services of former Gov. John G. Rowland for his wife’s congressional campaign, then became a crucial witness against Rowland to save himself and his family, was sentenced Friday to probation, a $30,000 fine and three months in a halfway house.

“I wanted more than anything for my wife to become a congresswoman,” Foley told Senior U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton. “I’m not blaming my wife for that. She did not ask me to do any of these things.”

Brian Foley at federal court in New Haven for his sentencing Friday.
Brian Foley at federal court in New Haven for his sentencing Friday. MARK PAZNIOKAS / CTMIRROR.ORG

Arterton told Foley, 63, the owner of the Apple Rehab nursing home chain, that his cooperation with the government in what she called an important political corruption case was the main factor in sparing him from prison, a hint that his wife, Lisa Wilson-Foley, who awaits sentencing in the same case, should expect to see prison time.

Prosecutors told Arterton that Foley flouted campaign finance laws and initially lied to prosecutors and investigators in a vain effort to scuttle the investigation that ensnared him, his wife and Rowland.

“In plain terms, Mr. Foley, a wealthy businessman with vast resources, set out to buy a congressional election by illegally routing money to his wife’s campaign in a variety of ways,” the prosecutors, Liam Brennan and Christopher M. Mattei, wrote in their sentencing memo. “There was apparently no election law that Brian Foley was unwilling to break in service to his wife’s ambition.”

Foley became a cooperator after learning that his sister and niece had testified to a federal grand jury about conduit contributions made in their names to Wilson-Foley’s campaign with his money to circumvent individual campaign contribution limits, the prosecutors said.

But once he did agree to help the government, Brennan told Arterton on Friday, Foley was an indispensable witness in the trial of Rowland, who was convicted in September on seven felony counts that seem to guarantee a return to prison for the former governor, who served 10 months in prison after a corruption scandal forced him from office in 2004.

“He has no history of engaging in this sort of public corruption conduct other than to promote his wife. Mr. Rowland on the other hand is a completely different story,” Brennan said. “Mr. Foley’s motive for this was to aid his wife’s career.”

Rowland is facing up to 37 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines, with prosecutors saying he deserves 46 months. Foley pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and faced a maximum of 12 months, with the government urging “a substantial downward departure” as a reward for his assistance.

Brennan told Arterton her sentence must deliver several messages: One is that political corruption will not be tolerated, but another is to reinforce the importance of cooperating with investigators. Without cooperators, he said, corruption cases cannot be proved.

It was a message that Arterton took to heart.

“The punishment to be imposed on Mr. Foley is dominated by the importance of  rewarding his exceptional assistance to the government and is the authorized basis for a downward departure,” Arterton said. “It is not, however, a path to walk away without consequences.”

She ordered three years probation, the first three months to be served in a work-release halfway house, where he will be confined at night but can go to work. He must pay the $100.50 nightly charge, as well a $30,000 fine that was the maximum recommended under the sentencing guidelines.

Foley and his wife, Wilson-Foley, each pleaded guilty to misdemeanors on March 31, admitting they conspired with Rowland to conceal an illegal campaign contribution: Foley paid Rowland $5,000 a month for a total of $35,000 through Apple Rehab to oversee his wife’s campaign as a shadow consultant.

In return for his cooperation, prosecutors did not charge Foley with the felonies they brought against Rowland, including obstruction of justice. They also filed the “substantial assistance” motion that encouraged Arterton to sentence Foley to less than the 12-month penalty recommended by sentencing guidelines.

Foley was alone as he entered the courthouse across from the New Haven Green, greeted by a waiting scrum of reporters and photographers. Five of his seven children arrived later, sitting in the front row. His wife did not attend.

Lisa Wilson-Foley
Lisa Wilson-Foley

Inside, they heard Foley allude to childhood beatings by his father and his subsequent resolve to over-compensate as “a super dad.” One of his lawyers, Hubert Santos, told the judge that Foley, starting at age 7, lived in a nursing home run by his mother. It housed former psychiatric patients from Norwich State Hospital, including one who wrote a letter to the judge on Foley’s behalf.

“He basically brought the guy up,” Santos said. “To me, that’s the cornerstone of his character, because character is developed over time.”

Foley took a sip of water, blew his nose and then stood to address the judge. He apologized to the court, his family, friends and employees for his actions. He had directed his employees to feature his wife in an Apple Rehab ad to raise her political profile in 2012, and he used them to prepare political marketing materials during her earlier campaign for lieutenant governor in 2010.

“I am ashamed. I do deeply regret the course I took,” Foley said. “I still  don’t understand it.”

Tyler Jones, the coach of Concordia University’s basketball program, was one of two character witnesses. He had been the general manager and coach of Foley’s defunct CBA basketball franchise, the Connecticut Pride. The other was a prominent Hartford attorney, Louis R. Pepe, a long-time friend.

Foley was relaxed and smiling after the sentencing hearing, but he declined to comment.

Rowland’s sentencing, which had been scheduled for Wednesday, was postponed last week while his lawyers explore whether the government fully disclosed exculpatory evidence before trial. On Thursday, Wilson-Foley, for whom the government is seeking 10 months in prison, asked for a delay in her sentencing, now scheduled for next week.

Wilson-Foley’s lawyers have responded to the government’s call for a prison sentence in withering terms, accusing prosecutors of hyping the case against her by describing it as an attempt to steal an election.

“The Government unjustly and unfairly portrays Ms. Wilson-Foley as an entitled, wealthy woman who ran for Congress and tried to ‘buy a seat in the United States Congress’ out of pure hubris,” wrote Kathleen Dion, who is defending Wilson-Foley with Craig Raabe of Robinson & Cole. “While this hyperbole might sell in the media and with a public that readily looks askance at the kind of wealth that Ms. Wilson-Foley has built for herself, these exaggerations have no place in this misdemeanor sentencing.”

In her sentencing memorandum, Wilson-Foley professed to being unaware of the conspiracy initiated by her husband until April 2012, shortly before Rowland’s consulting contract with Apple Rehab became public. Rowland’s lawyers say her position supported Rowland’s defense, which was that his Apple Rehab consulting entailed real work and was not a pretext.

Arterton said Friday that Rowland made the initial pitch to run Wilson-Foley’s campaign, but the evidence was clear that Foley and Wilson-Foley embraced the overture.

The judge, whose husband is a political scientist, has made clear in this and other political corruption cases that she sees conspiracies involving campaigns as a special affront to society with a wider set of victims that conspiracies involving drugs or financial fraud.

“It’s all the voters that are impacted,” Arterton said Friday. “And that’s a big community that cares about who is going to govern them.”

Mark is the Capitol Bureau Chief and a co-founder of CT Mirror. He is a frequent contributor to WNPR, a former state politics writer for The Hartford Courant and Journal Inquirer, and contributor for The New York Times.

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