Defense tries to show ex-governor did real work

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A nursing home company executive testified Tuesday that former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland did legitimate consulting work for him and that he did not believe that Rowland's contract with his company was a sham.

But Brian Bedard, the executive vice president of Apple Health Care Inc., also acknowledged that the company and a congressional campaign for which Rowland worked had an "incestuous" relationship.

Rowland faces seven federal charges, including that he conspired to hide payments for work he did on the 2012 congressional campaign of Lisa Wilson-Foley through the consulting deal with Apple, which is owned by her husband, Brian Foley.

Rowland's attorneys contend he did legitimate work for the company while volunteering for the campaign.

The Foleys pleaded guilty to conspiring to hide $35,000 in payments to Rowland, and Brian Foley was the prosecution's star witness. He testified that Rowland did some work for Apple, but he said it was cursory and that the ex-governor was really being paid to work on the campaign.

Rowland's own career as an elected official ended a decade ago in a corruption scandal, resignation and 10 months in federal prison for taking illegal gifts while in office.

Bedard, who runs the company for Foley, testified he had eight meetings with Rowland. He went over numerous email exchanges they had on topics such as government plans to close some nursing homes.

When asked if he ever thought that work was a pretext or cover for anything, Bedard responded "Not for a split second."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Liam Brennan got Bedard to acknowledge on cross examination that Rowland never met with other key members of the executive team. He also testified that he never shared with Rowland a proposed union contract or marketing materials, two areas in which Rowland was supposed to be a consulting.

Bedard testified that he was unhappy about the Wilson-Foley campaign and "wished it were not happening."

The jury was then shown photos of Bedard at a campaign event during which Rowland asked for money, and at Wilson-Foley headquarters on election night. Bedard also acknowledged participating in a mock debate during Wilson-Foley's 2010 campaign for lieutenant governor.

He also testified that he was asked by Foley to write a press release explaining Rowland's relationship with Apple.

"I was trying to the best of my ability to keep things out of Apple," he said. "It was impossible. It was incestuous."

He testified there were Wilson-Foley campaign signs on the walls at Apple properties and that he provided personal emails of the company's upper-level staff to the campaign for fundraising purposes. He also said he stopped a campaign effort to get contact information for the families of some of Apple's patients.

Defense attorney Reid Weingarten also was dealt a setback when he tried to introduce some last-minute evidence from Bedard.

U.S. District Judge Janet Bond Arterton refused to allow questions in front of the jury about conversations between Foley and Bedard about Foley's guilty plea. Weingarten told the judge Bedard would testify that on numerous occasions Foley told him that he never had an illegal deal with Rowland.

Weingarten, in arguments without the jury in the courtroom, said he had not asked Foley about those statements, because he learned about them last Sunday, after Foley had finished testifying.

Arterton said it was unclear when Foley last made those assertions to Bedard, and they would not be relevant if they came before Foley's guilty plea.

Rowland is not expected to take the stand in his own defense, and Weingarten has said he may rest his case once Bedard finishes his testimony.

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