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U.S. judge declines to dismiss charges against ex-Connecticut governor

By Richard Weizel

MILFORD Conn. (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Tuesday refused to dismiss charges that former Connecticut Governor John Rowland violated campaign finance laws while working as an adviser to congressional campaigns after leaving office.

District Court Judge Janet Bond Arterton in New Haven ruled that a jury must decide whether the charges against Rowland, a Republican who was forced to resign in 2004, are justified.

Rowland, 57, pleaded not guilty in April to charges of conspiracy, falsifying records in a federal investigation, causing false statements to be made to the Federal Election Commission and causing illegal campaign contributions while working as a campaign adviser from 2009 to 2012. (http://bit.ly/1qHXhc9)

His lawyers had argued that new 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.

Arterton disagreed.

"An indictment is sufficient if it, first, contains the elements of the offense charged and fairly informs a defendant of the charge against which he must defend, and, second, enables him to plead an acquittal or conviction in bar of future prosecutions for the same offense," she wrote.

The new 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 an illegal contract when he worked as a political consultant.

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.

Rowland's attorney could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

After stepping down as governor, Rowland served 10 months in prison after pleading guilty to accepting gifts and work at his home from people awarded lucrative state contracts.

(Corrects time element to Tuesday, instead of Wednesday, in 1st paragraph; adds dropped words in 2nd paragraph)

(Editing by Scott Malone and Steve Orlofsky)

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