Bond reduction sought in New Canaan lawyer's attempted murder case
STAMFORD -- Attorneys for a former White House lawyer accused of attempted murder want a judge to lower their client's $2 million bond so he can admit himself in to a mental health center for treatment.
The concern, Judge Richard Comerford said Wednesday during a hearing at state Superior Court in Stamford, was whether John Michael Farren, 57, could sign himself out of the facility. Since shortly after his arrest, Farren has been incarcerated at the Garner Correctional
Institute in Newtown, spending close to 23 hours a day alone with no distractions, his lawyers said.
"I'm not concerned about the doors and the windows," Comerford said after one of Farren's attorneys began describing the security features of The Institute of Living, a well-known treatment facility in Hartford. "I'm concerned about the pen and the signature."
Farren, appearing in court Wednesday wearing a green prison-issue jumpsuit, is accused of exploding into a violent rage over a pending divorce this past January and beating his wife in the head with a large flashlight. She fled their New Canaan mansion with her daughters to a neighbors house after hitting a panic button in their bedroom.
"There are people in this situation who have killed people and don't have this kind of bond," Riccio said.
The attorneys said he needs proper psychological treatment and cannot receive it in a high-security prison. They assured the court that authorities would be notified if Farren signed himself out of treatment and he would be held at the institute for three days after choosing to leave.
Comerford questioned whether there was any legal authority for the institute to keep a patient admitted after they had signed themselves out of treatment, and at one point asked whether it was constitutional.
Riccio said several elements should be taken into account in lowering Farren's bond, among them his employment history, which Riccio called exemplary. Another factor was that a judge froze $4.1 million of assets belonging to Farren in a civil lawsuit over the assault.
A graduate of Fairfield University, Farren rose through the ranks in Washington, D.C., and served as undersecretary of commerce for international trade under President George H.W. Bush. He returned to the White House as a deputy counsel for the younger President Bush.
"Mr. Farren played in the major leagues," Riccio said. "To play in the major leagues, you have to play hardball."
The prosecutor, State's Attorney David Cohen, strongly opposed the argument to lower the bond. He said Farren's fall from the White House to the bowels of a Connecticut state prison make him dangerous if released.
"This is a defendant who really has nothing left to lose," Cohen said. "He has gone to the pinnacle of power and by his actions that night has forever foreclosed his access to that power and status."
Cohen said what happened on the night of Jan. 6 was the culmination of years of mental abuse to which Farren subjected his wife, who had filed divorce papers days before the attack.
Dr. Leslie Lothstein, the director of psychology at the The Institute of Living, spoke in court for the defense and said while he felt Farren, whom he put through psychological testing, was over-controlling, he was not predatory.
Before telling the court he would need two weeks to decide whether to lower the $2 million bond, Comerford said he would not treat Farren differently because of his once lofty titles as a White House attorney.