Former White House lawyer charged with attempting to kill wife in New Canaan
A prominent attorney and former White House lawyer was charged with attempting to kill his wife at his New Canaan home last Wednesday night. John Michael Farren, 57, of 388 Wahackme Road, was charged with attempted murder and first-degree strangulation after police received a panic alarm from his home shortly after 10 p.m.
Farren, who worked for presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, was arraigned in state Superior Court in Norwalk Thursday, where he was ordered held in lieu of $2 million bond. He appeared in court wearing slippers under his leg irons and a dark-blue, police-issued jumpsuit with a large bandage stuck to the right side of his neck. Because New Canaan police heard him say he wants to kill himself, he was placed on a suicide watch.
He had abrasions on his neck that appear to have been made by a braided leather belt he was wearing when he was found by police, a police report said.
His wife, 43, sustained a broken jaw, facial fractures, lacerations to the back of her head and after being beaten into unconsciousness was taken to Norwalk Hospital, a police report of the incident said.
During a discussion of John Farren's bond, his wife's attorney, Andrew Bowman, said she was the victim of a "brutal attack" with a large flashlight.
"She is terrified of him and we ask as many restrictions be placed upon him as possible," Bowman said to Judge Bruce Hudock.
In a taped interview at the hospital as she was surrounded by bloodied bed sheets and hunks of pulled-out hair, Farren's wife told police she escaped the house after hitting the panic alarm and then driving to a nearby home on Weed Street with her two daughters, a 4-month-old and a 7-year-old, after Farren tried to pull her into a bathroom with a kitchen knife, a police report said.
She said the dispute began when Farren wanted to talk to her about divorce papers she delivered to him on Monday. He wanted them to get back together, but she told police that she could not stay with him because of his explosive temper, the report said.
In the third-floor master bedroom, Farren walked toward her, but she told him not to approach and he flew into a rage, she told police.
He tackled her and began pulling out "gobs of hair," she said in the report. He then began beating her with a metal flashlight and drove her to the floor under the blows, she told police.
Bleeding heavily, she passed out and, when she came to, he began strangling her. With his hands around her neck, she lost her sight and began searching for the panic alarm with her hands, she told police.
Farren said, "Don't hit the alarm button," but eventually she pushed it and the alarm began to sound, the police report said.
Hearing the alarm, "he went nuts," and began to hit her again with the flashlight, the report said.
Farren then told her he was going to slit his wrists and went and got a large knife, the report said. He went into the bathroom and tried to get her there too. Thinking that he was going to try to kill her, she ran to her daughter's bedroom and screamed, "Daddy's trying to kill me," and "we have to leave now," the report said.
She got her two daughters into the car and drove to the first home that had its lights on.
After arriving at 855 Weed St., Farren's wife honked her horn and banged on the front door. The homeowners opened the door and found Farren's wife severely injured with blood streaming down her face, the police report said. She told them her husband was trying to kill her and had beaten her with a flashlight, the report said.
After the woman said her children were in the car, the Weed Street homeowner went outside and found the infant lying on the front passenger seat and the older daughter in the back seat dressed in pajamas and bare feet, the report said.
The Weed Street residents said they did not know the woman. Police released the children to close relatives of Farren's wife.
She told police Farren struck her three years ago and she is extremely fearful that when he is released he will find her and kill her, and possibly kill the children too.
"She adamantly wanted the police and court to know that he has an explosive and uncontrollable temper and he will kill her," the police report said.
New Canaan police are continuing to investigate and are in the process of executing a search warrant for the couple's $4.8 million home, police Sgt. Carol Ogrinc said.
Farren was taken into custody at the couple's home without incident and held overnight in New Canaan without bond. Early Thursday afternoon, state prosecutors argued to increase the bond to $3 million -- an amount characterized as "ridiculous" by Farren's attorney, Eugene Riccio.
Riccio asked Hudock to lower the bond to $500,000. Hudock instead made the bond $2 million, citing the seriousness of the victim's injuries and the fact she believes he intends to do further harm.
Riccio declined to talk about the case in the court hallway except to say, "This is a very tragic situation."
Hudock also issued a protective order preventing Farren from contacting his wife or their daughters. Farren also must surrender his passport and any guns he may own.
The case was transferred to the Part A docket in state Superior Court in Stamford where the most serious cases in the Stamford-Norwalk Judicial District are decided; Farren is to appear there Jan. 21.
Farren and his wife have been married since 1997 and they share a 4,300-square-foot home built in 2003, according to New Canaan property records. Three Wahackme Street neighbors said that the Farren family kept to themselves.
"It's a family tragedy," said Farren's sister Eleanor Rohfritch of West Hartford.
Farren's brother Joseph W. Farren, Jr. of Mississippi refused to comment.
Farren has served as general counsel and vice president of external affairs for the Xerox Corp. and served as under secretary of commerce for international trade under President George H.W. Bush and in the White House counsel's office under President George W. Bush.
Farren worked as a deputy counsel for George W. Bush from 2007 until he left office; in this role, he took on a number of issues, including dismissal of several U.S. attorneys and the disappearance of White House e-mail communications.
Prior to joining the Bush legal team, Farren served as a vice president in charge of government relations for Xerox.
Farren worked in the U.S. Department of Commerce under President Ronald Reagan and became under secretary for international trade for President George H.W. Bush in 1989. In 1992, Farren left the Commerce Department to become a deputy manager for the unsuccessful Bush-Quayle re-election campaign.
Farren served as deputy director for George H.W. Bush's transition team and prior to joining the Commerce Department in 1983, he served for two years as deputy director of White House liaison at the Republican National Committee.
Jonathan Lucas and Brittany Lyte contributed to this story.