One of the main questions for the jury in the case of former Governor John Rowland is this: was his consulting contract with a nursing home business the real deal, or was it a “pretext” designed to funnel him money for work on a 2012 congressional campaign?
On Tuesday, Rowland’s attorney Reid Weingarten hammered at that question with Brian Bedard on the stand. Bedard is an executive at Apple Rehab, the nursing home business in question. The word Weingarten used time and again was “pretext.”
“Pretext, or real work?” he asked about strategies regarding unions.
“Did you think that instruction was a pretext or not?” he asked about instructions for paying Rowland.
Weingarten asked about Foley's desire to have a meeting with Rowland. “Did you take that to be a pretext in any way, shape or form?”
Each time, Bedard said Rowland’s work was real. He described meetings and email exchanges on topics including the government's plans to close nursing homes.
Weingarten asked if Bedard thought Rowland’s work was just for show. “Not for a split second,” Bedard responded.
The government alleges that the former Republican governor and convicted felon worked on the 2012 congressional campaign of Lisa Wilson-Foley, but that he was paid for that work through a bogus consulting agreement with the nursing home business of Wilson-Foley’s husband, Brian Foley.
Brian Foley has already testified that while Rowland may have done “real work” for his company, his intent was always to pay the former governor through the company to have him work on his wife’s campaign. Foley has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge and is cooperating with the government.
Jurors have already heard from people who worked on the 2012 congressional campaign of Lisa Wilson-Foley, including one-time campaign manager Chris Covucci, who said he left the campaign in part because of concerns about the arrangement with Rowland. They also heard from Apple Rehab executives who also had concerns about the Rowland arrangement once they learned about it.
On Monday, Rowland’s attorneys told the court that they may have a relatively short witness list. One question is whether Rowland will be on it. The answer to that is still unknown.
Then, in a lengthy hearing in front of Judge Janet Bond Arterton, but without the jury present, Weingarten threw a bit of a courtroom bombshell. He said he “just learned” over the weekend about a conversation between Brian Foley and Brian Bedard. In that conversation, Foley apparently told Bedard that there was no deal between him and Rowland.
“Mr. Foley, among other things...told Mr. Bedard there was never a deal with Mr. Rowland, there was never a quid pro quo, and he would never testify to that,” Weingarten told the court.
“This could not be more fundamental,” Weingarten said. “We have a situation where [on one hand] the government’s star witness says, ‘I committed a crime with John Rowland. And we have testimony now that, on numerous occasions, he said to his CEO, ‘I did not.’”
The question is whether to the defense could get testimony to that effect from Bedard. The government objected, and the court agreed.
(Later, before the jury was brought in after lunch, lawyers fought again over whether to allow Bedard to be questioned as to that conversation with Foley. After extensive argument, the judge called the situation “a mess,” and instructed Rowland's lawyers to move on.)
When Bedard returned, he underwent a long, tense, and dramatic questioning led by prosecutor Liam Brennan. Throughout, despite saying he made campaign contributions, despite saying he went to a few campaign events, despite conceding he met with Rowland and Republican strategist Chris Healy, and despite saying he “vaguely” remembered seeing Rowland’s draft contract language that dealt with the 2012 campaign, Bedard said he never thought Rowland's arrangement at Apple was related to the campaign.
“And you never...thought that this contract was maybe about politics?” Brennan asked him.
“Never once,” Bedard said.
This report includes information from the Associated Press.