In a sweeping rejection of Apple’s strategy for selling electronic books on the Internet, a federal judge ruled that the company conspired with five major publishers to raise e-book prices. U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan found “compelling evidence” that Apple violated federal antitrust law by playing a “central role” in a conspiracy with the publishers to eliminate retail price competition and raise e-book prices. Wednesday’s decision could expose Apple to substantial damages. It is a victory for the U.S. Department of Justice and the 33 U.S. states and territories that brought the civil antitrust case. The five publishers previously settled. Apple was accused of pursuing the conspiracy to undercut online retailer Amazon.com Inc’s e-book dominance, causing some e-book prices to rise to $12.99 or $14.99 from the $9.99 that Amazon charged.