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Trial date set for former White House counsel

Published 6:14 pm, Friday, April 11, 2014
  • FILE – John Michael Farren, 57, of New Canaan, is arraigned in state Superior Court in Norwalk after he was charged with attempted murder and strangulation following a report of a domestic dispute. Special Dru Nadler Photo: File Photo, ST / Stamford Advocate File Photo
    FILE – John Michael Farren, 57, of New Canaan, is arraigned in state Superior Court in Norwalk after he was charged with attempted murder and strangulation following a report of a domestic dispute. Special Dru Nadler Photo: File Photo, ST

 

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STAMFORD -- After more than four years of legal wrangling, a Stamford judge has set a date for former White House counsel J. Michael Farren to stand trial for attempting to beat his wife to death with a metal flashlight in their New Canaan mansion.

At a hearing in a courtroom on the fourth floor of the Stamford courthouse Friday, Judge Richard Comerford ordered jury selection to begin on May 27 and testimony in the trial to begin on June 17.

Comerford also ordered Farren, 60, to turn over to the State's Attorney's office every report he had on any potential witnesses that may testify on his behalf. Farren is representing himself in the case.

Setting a trial date for Farren has been extremely difficult. For more than a year, Farren has has refused to work with the lawyers he hired to defend him, insisting he go it alone. In that time he succeeded in getting Comerford to allow him to take over his own defense, despite the fact that Farren is facing a maximum 70-year jail sentence and has said he would be relying on some type of insanity defense.

Also for the past year Farren has tried to enlist the help of the Public Defender's office because he claims his wife took every cent from him in her civil suit against him. The public defender's office determined that Farren did not qualify and Farren appealed that decision, which took months and cost taxpayers $10,000 for a certified public accountant to go over Farren's finances. In February Comerford denied the appeal, finding that Farren had more resources at his disposal than state guidelines allow.

In December, Mary Margaret Farren won a $28 million judgment against Farren for the injuries she suffered in the attack on her. Farren, who was defending himself in that case too, is trying to get the jury award overturned because he was unable to attend any of the trial. Farren said he was involuntarily committed to a Hartford mental hospital a day before the trial began and could not attend the week-long trial. Hospital records Farren has so far produced indicate he was committed because he was having suicidal thoughts.

Also during Friday's hearing, Farren requested that Senior Assistant State's Attorney Richard Colangelo, who is prosecuting the case with State's Attorney David Cohen, recuse himself from the case. Farren accused Colangelo of telling his wife's civil attorneys of a conversation the two had just before the civil trial took place about whether he would be in violation of his conditions of release if he went into a mental hospital.

On the day the civil trial began and Farren did not show up, Colangelo told the attorneys of Farren's conversation with him. Comerford earlier said Colangelo had every right to tell his wife's attorneys anything he knew about Farren's whereabouts -- especially given the violence of the January 2010 attack. Comerford denied Farren's request for Colangelo to be taken off the case.

Police accuse Farren of trying to murder his wife on Jan. 6, 2010, in their $4 million Wahackme Road home just two days after she served him with divorce papers.

At first Farren, who worked for former President George W. Bush as a deputy White House counsel and before that as lead attorney for Xerox, tried to win over his wife and get her to drop the divorce filing. But prosecutors said he became angrier by the evening of Jan. 6.

Mary Farren, 47, who had given birth to their second daughter four months earlier, testified in the civil trial she agreed to hold off on the divorce if the two would go to counseling, but refused to stop the divorce action.

Mary Farren said her husband grabbed her by the throat and tackled her before banging her head against the hardwood floor. She said he then began beating her with his fists, before grabbing her and throwing her across the room. He then grabbed a heavy metal flashlight from his night stand and began beating her with it, she testified.

After drifting back into consciousness, she hustled her two children into a car and fled to the first home she could see with lights on.

She was found lying in a pool of blood just inside the front door of a home on nearby Weed Street, a paramedic said during the trial.