Case of John Michael Farren seen as refresher course on domestic violence

By Karl Vick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 25, 2010

NEW CANAAN, CONN. -- The gate to 855 Weed St. is always open, and the driveway curves invitingly toward a cheerful Cape Cod. But what mattered to Mary Margaret Farren in the darkness of Jan. 6 was that lights were on inside.

The 43-year-old lawyer swung the BMW into the drive of a family she didn't know, leaned on the horn, pounded on the front door. When it opened, she collapsed, bleeding, in the airy stillness of a New Canaan foyer.

"She made several remarks implying that she did not think she was going to live," New Canaan police Sgt. Louis Gannon noted in his report. Summoned by the owners of the house on Weed Street, the officer found Farren on her side, inside the front door of the dumbfounded family's house, shivering and pale under a pile of blankets in an expanding pool of blood.

She said her husband had tried to kill her, first with his hands, then with a metal flashlight, according to the police report. She said his plan was to kill her and then himself. She said that he was still at home, a mile away, and that there was a gun somewhere in the house.

The sergeant relayed the information to the squad cars screaming toward the house she had fled. And so what appeared before J. Michael Farren a year after leaving the White House were four police officers, two with shotguns, one with an assault rifle, one with a shield held across the other three, advancing toward the $4 million home of a man last employed as deputy counsel to the president of the United States.

Mike Farren came out with his hands up. After he was handcuffed, the officers photographed the blood on the floor of the master bedroom, where his wife said he erupted over divorce papers that would cite "long-term verbal, emotional and, in at least one instance, physical abuse."

They photographed ligature marks around Mike Farren's neck that matched the pattern of his braided belt. They photographed blood on his hands.

"He said to me, 'I am killing you' as he was strangling me," Mary Farren wrote in an affidavit from her hospital bed, private guards posted in the corridor. "Based on my husband's past associations and resources, I will need enhanced personal security measures, including but not limited to bodyguards, for a substantial period of time."

The statement was filed with a motion intended to prevent her husband, charged with attempted murder and strangulation, from making bail a Superior Court judge had set at $2 million.

"That's a lot of money," said Leroy Webber, a bail bondsman at the courthouse in Stamford, seven miles and a world away. In New Canaan (median household income: $178,000), a woman in jodhpurs and jacket can be seen on Main Street on a weekday afternoon. Mike Farren could easily write a check for $2 million, his wife said, when she sued him for $30 million, in part to prevent him from making bail.

"His past associations with people of power, wealth and influence," she wrote, reinforced her fear that Farren would find a way out of jail, and "facing the possibility of being incarcerated for the rest of his life, may take the children and run."

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