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New Canaan man turns down plea deal in attempted-murder case

Updated 9:41 pm, Tuesday, June 17, 2014
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STAMFORD -- Whatever the prison time offered during court-ordered negotiations to resolve the attempted-murder case against former White House lawyer J. Michael Farren was not enough to entice a guilty plea. Therefore, jury selection is set to begin Wednesday.

Farren's lawyers, Eugene Riccio and Timothy Moynahan, met with prosecutors under the supervision of state Superior Court Judge Gary White on Tuesday morning, but were apparently unable to reach an agreement.

Riccio said the discussion was sealed, so he could not disclose the details of the meeting.

"We are picking a jury tomorrow," Riccio said.

After the meeting, Riccio and Moynahan met with Farren for about 10 minutes in a small office next to a courtroom. Farren left without comment.

Farren, who also served as general counsel for Xerox, was arrested in his multimillion New Canaan mansion on Jan. 6, 2010, after his wife turned up at a neighbor's home bloodied and badly beaten. Mary Margaret Farren later said her husband beat her with a metal flashlight and his fists, and strangled her in the bedroom of their Wahackme Road home in New Canaan. She said she managed to escape the house with her two young daughters. She had served her husband with divorce papers two days earlier.

After a week-long civil trial in December, a jury in Stamford awarded Mary Margaret Farren $28.6 million in damages.

Farren's criminal trial remains pending. He is charged with attempted murder, risk of injury to a child and two counts of first-degree assault. He faces a maximum 70-year prison sentence.

Farren is free on bond, but with severe restrictions on his ability to leave his sister's home, where he is staying.

Until last week, Farren was representing himself in the case. But on Thursday, he abruptly told trial Judge Richard Comerford the evidence in the case was taking an emotional toll and asked to withdraw as his own attorney.

Comerford agreed, then appointed Riccio and Moynahan, whom Farren had previously hired to represent him after his arrest more than four years ago. But Farren then said he did not want them as attorneys, although Riccio has attended every hearing since Farren began representing himself more than a year ago. Comerford refused to appoint a new attorney.

Although he was no longer acting as his own attorney and not invited to the meeting with the judge and prosecutors Tuesday, Farren nonetheless submitted a motion asking Comerford to reconsider his decision assigning Moynahan and Riccio.

In the 15-page motion, Farren said that Moynahan and Riccio had previously filed motions to withdraw from the case and their reinstatement is an "erroneous deprivation of a criminal defendants' choice of counsel." He also said that following the assault, he had been made "indigent" by judges who barred him from access to his personal money or assets.

"Despite the defendant's repeated efforts to gain access to funds for an effective legal defense, those requests and efforts have been impeded by the actions of the alleged victim in concert with the criminal, civil and family courts," Farren said in the motion.

Colangelo and Stamford State's Attorney David Cohen have repeatedly accused Farren of delaying his case.

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