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Jury selection set for trial of former Connecticut governor Rowland

By Richard Weizel

NEW HAVEN Conn. (Reuters) - Jury selection begins Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Connecticut for the trial of former Governor John Rowland on charges of violating campaign laws by seeking back-room consulting jobs on two Republican congressional campaigns.

Rowland, 57, who was forced to resign as governor a decade ago for corruption, pleaded not guilty in April to seven criminal counts in the latest case. The charges included conspiracy and falsifying records that accuse him of trying to conceal payments from two congressional campaigns he worked on as a consultant from 2009 through 2012.

Prospective jurors will report Tuesday to court to begin the jury selection process and are scheduled to return next week, said Thomas Carson, a spokesman for federal prosecutors in New Haven, Connecticut.

The trial is set to begin Sept. 3.

Rowland's lawyers argued in motions last month that the campaign finance restrictions cited by prosecutors are unconstitutional in light of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down limits on how much individuals can donate in an election cycle.

They also asked jurors be barred from hearing about Rowland's earlier conviction when he was forced from office after pleading guilty to accepting gifts and work at his home from contractors who were awarded lucrative state contracts. He served 10 ten months in prison in 2006 on those charges.

The latest case against Rowland involves former Republican congressional candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley and her husband, Brian Foley, who prosecutors say agreed to pay Rowland $35,000 under what they described as an illegal contract when he worked as a political consultant during the 2012 campaign.

Prosecutors said the contract called for Rowland to be paid for non-existent work at nursing homes operated by Brian Foley, and that the payments to Rowland amounted to illegal contributions by Brian Foley to his wife's campaign.

The couple has pleaded guilty to conspiracy.

Federal prosecutors also accuse Rowland of previously attempting to work as a paid, but secret consultant on the GOP congressional campaign of Mark Greenberg in 2009.

Wilson-Foley and Greenberg both lost their congressional bids.

Defense lawyer Reid Weingarten argued in court documents that Rowland is guilty of no crime in connection with Greenberg because the document was never signed.

Weingarten also contended that the contracts Rowland did sign do not violate campaign finance laws.

(Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Trott)

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