Image: John G. Rowland.
Douglas Healey  /  AP FILE
Former Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland
updated 3/19/2005 3:55:23 AM ET 2005-03-19T08:55:23

His voice occasionally wavering, former Gov. John G. Rowland stood before a federal judge and told how arrogance had led him to corruption.

“I let my pride get in my way,” Rowland said Friday before U.S. District Judge Peter C. Dorsey sentenced him to a year in prison for selling access to his office for personal gain.

Rowland, 47, pleaded guilty in December to a corruption charge, admitting he sold his influence for more than $100,000 in trips to Las Vegas, vacations in Vermont and Florida, and improvements at his lakeside cottage.

He resigned last summer amid a gathering drive to impeach him.

Judge: Rowland had 'a sense of entitlement'
Once Connecticut’s youngest governor and one of the Republican Party’s fastest-rising stars, Rowland told Dorsey that he lost sight of his ethical judgment and developed a “sense of entitlement and even arrogance.”

Dorsey cited Rowland’s public service and his children for handing down the sentence, which was shorter than the 15 months to 21 months in prison called for in the plea agreement Rowland made with prosecutors.

After hearing the sentence, Rowland hugged his wife, Patty, who was sobbing, and his two daughters, who were also in tears. His wife mouthed to him, “It will be all right.”

While Rowland tried to downplay the charge against him Friday, prosecutors repeatedly called him corrupt.

“He has corrupted the office of the governor as if he took a bag of cash in a dark alley,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Nora Dannehy told Dorsey. “He was corrupt. It was a six-year conspiracy to deprive this state of honest services.”

Dorsey sentenced Rowland to a year plus one day in prison, four months of home confinement and three years of supervised release. He ordered Rowland to report to prison on April 1 in Ayer, Mass. Rowland was fined $82,000 and ordered to do 300 hours of community service.

“Officials are expected to serve not his own interest or the interest of his friends, but the highest interest of the community,” Dorsey said. “Gratuities were accepted as if they were his due.”

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Rowland attorney William Dow, who compared the two-year scandal to a public stoning, called the sentence fair.

“I’m pleased we had a judge as wise and sensitive and responsible as Judge Dorsey,” he said.

Prosecutors would not say whether they would appeal.

“We would have liked to have seen a sentence of between 15 and 21 months,” said Mike Wolf, the FBI special agent in charge of Connecticut.

Rowland seemed uneasy at times speaking to the judge.

“I’ve given many many speeches, but this is not a speech, this is an explanation,” Rowland said, his voice cracking.

Rowland becomes one of more than a dozen former governors to be sent to prison. Among those jailed in the past few years: Edward D. DiPrete of Rhode Island and Edwin Edwards of Louisiana.

In a written statement, Gov. M. Jodi Rell expressed sympathy for the state and Rowland’s family.

“There is a pervasive sense of sadness about this almost surreal day,” she said. “Sadness about talent wasted, lives ruined, achievements overshadowed.”

Once a boy wonder
Rowland was the boy wonder of Connecticut politics, sprinting through the ranks. He was a congressman at 27. He became the youngest governor in Connecticut history at 37.

Though a Republican in a heavily Democratic state, the charismatic Rowland enjoyed high approval ratings. President Bush appointed him to White House advisory committees and affectionately called him “Johnny.”

But federal prosecutors said Rowland ran a corrupt office, with aides steering state business to companies in exchange for cash, gold coins and expensive gifts. Rowland’s former co-chief of staff, Peter Ellef, and state contractor William Tomasso are under indictment and could get up to 20 years in prison.

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