BOSTON – Former Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland, who left office in July amid a scandal involving gifts from state contractors, on Thursday accepted a plea agreement that will send him to prison on a single federal corruption charge.
Rowland, 49, told U.S. District Judge Peter Dorsey in New Haven, Conn., that he was pleading guilty to “conspiracy to steal honest service.” Wrapped into the plea were charges of mail fraud and tax fraud.
Rowland could have faced up to five years in prison, but under the agreement he will receive a sentence of 15 to 21 months.
A friend of President Bush and a onetime rising star in the Republican Party, Rowland was advised by Dorsey that, as a convicted felon, he would be unable to vote or hold public office.
“Obviously, mistakes have been made throughout the last few years, and I accept responsibility for that,” Rowland said. “But I also ask the people of (Connecticut) to appreciate and understand what we have tried to do over the past 25 years in public service.”
Rowland’s plea ended a two-year investigation into corruption in his administration. The probe stemmed from charges that, as governor, Rowland had accepted vacations and work on his vacation cottage from construction firms that did business with Connecticut.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nora Dannahey said the gifts had a value of $107,000. As a result, Rowland admitted Thursday that he owed $35,459.25 in federal taxes.
The scandal broke when the Hartford Courant reported that a construction firm headed by William Tomasso had installed a new kitchen and hot tub – and had made other improvements – at Rowland’s summer home in Bantam Lake, Conn., at no charge.
Rowland at first insisted that he had bought the kitchen cabinets at Home Depot and that the hot tub was a gift from a personal friend. He later said both claims were lies.
Rowland and his wife, Patty, also vacationed at homes owned by Tomasso in Florida and Vermont.
While Rowland was governor, Tomasso received a no-bid contract to build and operate a parking garage at Bradley International Airport in Hartford. His firm also was hired by the state to renovate a juvenile jail. Rowland’s former deputy chief of staff, Lawrence Alibozek, earlier pleaded guilty to receiving cash for helping to direct state business to Tomasso’s company.
Rowland also admitted Thursday that he took free personal trips to Las Vegas and Philadelphia while governor.