Who can feel happy about this?
John Rowland is 57. When he gets out of prison he will be somewhere in his sixties, and, as someone turning 60 in a few weeks, I can assure you Rowland will have squandered more than a few of his last best years on a heartbreaking work of staggering idiocy. For a guy who likes vacations and Mustangs and parties and fishing boats and the good life and the high life, the stretch from 57 to, say, 64, is a sweet spot you don’t want to spend staring at the Loretto commissary bulletin board to see if they have those cashews you like.
So the sentence he will get is implicitly heartbreaking unless you factor in your own outrage at the way things went down in 2004, when a charming (and easily charmed) old softy named Judge Peter Dorsey handed Rowland a year when 5 to 8 would have been generous.
So I had a glass of red wine at the end of this day, but not a split of champagne.
I do say this: Rowland’s defense counsel may be the last ever to use the “feh” defense. From the New York Times:
This is right-wing, hard-core stuff,” the lawyer, Reid H. Weingarten, told the jurors on Thursday afternoon, minutes before they began deliberating, adding, “My biggest fear is that you’ll see the politics in this case and say, ‘Feh.’ ”
Where are we, the Lower East Side in 1958? Meh is the new feh. Everybody knows that.
Anyway, the jury said “feh” X 7.
Now, would you like to know what happens next?
The judge will give Rowland at least five years and maybe a good bit more. It depends heavily on how she feels about him as a second offender and, indeed, a second offender who seemed not to appreciate the charity extended to him the first time. This is guesswork, but I’m going to say seven years.
Can he appeal successfully? Who knows. I’m no lawyer, but it seemed as though Judge Arterton, in her rulings, was being careful. She ruled favorably for the defense in two high-profile questions — one early in the case having to do with emails accidentally shared with the defense and then late in the game on a question of whether the defense’s one and only witness could be allowed to impeach the testimony of Brian Foley, the star prosecution witness.
And with all of the above in mind, it seems unlikely that Arterton will allow Rowland out on bond while he pursues appeal.
All of the news for Rowland right now is bad. He turned down an 18-month plea deal. Now he’s looking at years. If there’s an ace up anybody’s sleeve, it’s very well hidden.
1. Why did Reid Weingarten take this case? High profile D.C. lawyer comes up to New Haven to handle the case of a repeat offender who left a lot of reckless evidence against himself. Unless he has a kid at Yale, this makes no sense.
2. Who paid Weingarten? Not Rowland.
3. What kind of defense was that? One witness, who faltered badly during cross-examination. And then the “feh” speech. That was supposed to do it? We hate to second guess, but, considering the jury just dropped the Hammer of Thor on your client after a short deliberation, we get to ask.
4. Ah, yes. WTIC. Rowland’s former employer and mine. The testimony at trial was worse than I expected. One witness described a very porous relationship between Rowland’s strategy sessions for Wilson Foley and what he said on the air. Confirmed in sworn testimony were Rowland’s attempts to bully his employer’s opponent Andrew Roraback, including getting Roraback’s cell phone number from the Wilson Foley camp and giving it out on the air so that his listeners would call Roraback and attack him for his death penalty position. A witness described a meeting at which Rowland crafted a Wilson Foley position about online gambling and then arranged for her to be interviewed about it by his WTIC broadcast partner Will Marrotti.
Some of this stuff happened in secret. Some of it, out in the open. In my 16 years at WTIC, I never would have entertained the thought of giving out a candidate’s cell phone number on the air and urging people to call him in anger. And if I had, I would have expected to be summoned to the front office. You almost wonder if the WTIC management was, like many before them, intimidated by Rowland. They just plain let some of this stuff go on. They didn’t set meaningful limits. And the stuff that sneaked past them is ruinous to the station’s credibility.
WTIC was hoping Rowland would be cleared. The opposite has happened. If an underling had handled things so horribly, with such disastrous consequences for the company, the underling would be fired. Management rarely plays a comparable price for its dreadful judgment.
Of course, maybe ownership will just dump the station.
Shana Sureck Courant photo