STAMFORD -- Mary Margaret Farren took to the stand for a little over an hour Monday to describe a brutal beating she said she took from her then-husband, former White House counsel J. Michael Farren, as his attempted-murder trial began Monday at state Superior Court.
J. Michael Farren, 61, is being tried in absentia on charges of attempted murder, first-degree assault and risk of injury to a child. Trial Judge Richard Comerford approved his request last Thursday that he not attend what is expected to be a week-long trial. Farren, who, a few weeks ago described the trial as a "judicial lynching," said the stress of attending could damage his mental health, and his absence would probably lessen media interest in the case.
Before the jurors heard Farren's former wife testify, Comerford explained to them that criminal defendants have a right to be at their trial. On the other hand, he said they also have a right to request not to be present, so jurors should not let that have any effect on their deliberations.
Farren is facing a maximum 50-year prison sentence if found guilty on all counts.
On the stand, Mary Farren, 47, said that earlier in the evening of Jan. 6, 2010, at their multimillion-dollar Wahackme Road home in New Canaan, the couple discussed ending their 15-year marriage, but because of the "intensity" of his reaction, she asked that his mother or sister spend the night. She had served him with divorce papers two days prior.
She said Farren slammed his hands down on a counter after demanding she withdraw the divorce papers and said, "Not tonight," in reference to her request for his mother or sister to join them.
After putting her daughters Abigale, 7, and Lily Rose, four months, to bed for the night, she found her husband, who she only referred to as "Mr. Farren" during her testimony, in bed in the master bedroom of the 7,400-square-foot home a little after 9 p.m.
Mary Farren, a lawyer herself who met her husband in 1994 after graduating from law school, said she told him she wouldn't withdraw the divorce papers, but would file reconciliation papers to put off the divorce for six months, if he would agree to counseling.
He then said in "enraged" voice, " `I've done everything for you. I don't deserve this,' " she testified.
A moment later, Mary Farren said he tackled her and knocked her to the hardwood floor, grabbed her by the neck and began strangling her and slamming her head onto the floor.
Sobbing as she spoke, she told the jury that Farren then straddled her and said, "I'm killing you."
She stopped screaming after she realized she did not want her older daughter to come into the room. But the attack continued, with her assailant tearing out tufts of her hair, smashing her head down and strangling her, she said.
He then picked her up by the neck and threw her across the room toward the fireplace.
"I felt like I was dying. I was in incredible pain," she said. Read Full Article
Her husband then walked over to his nightstand, picked up a heavy, black metal Maglite flashlight he kept on the floor, got on top of her and began striking her head and face with it, she said.
Under questioning by Assistant State's Attorney Richard Colangelo, who is trying the case with Stamford State's Attorney David Cohen, Mary Farren said he probably struck her about 10 times with the flashlight, judging by the broken bones -- her jaw was broken in the attack -- and from the bruises and other wounds she suffered.
She blacked out for a moment, but came to and said, "Mike, please stop. We can work this out."
He calmly replied, " `You're only saying that because you are scared,' " she said.
At one point, she said Farren warned her not to activate the house panic alarm. But thinking she was dying and needed to get help to save her daughters, she crawled to the dresser and, with vision badly blurred, began punching buttons on the alarm pad.
Angered by that, Farren tackled her to the floor, where she lost consciousness again, she said. Then hearing him in the bathroom and thinking he could have given the alarm company the password to call off police, she said she struggled to her feet and went into Abigail's room, telling her: "Abigail. To the car right now. Daddy is trying to kill me."
Abigail then jumped up and followed her down the hall toward her sister's room, where the mother scooped up her infant child with her right arm and held her like a football as she went down the back stairway to the three-bay garage.
She said she had left the keys in a car two days earlier because she was worried about her husband's reaction to the divorce. She then opened the door of the garage and with those keys drove the BMW sport-utility vehicle through the automatic gate and turned onto Weed Street, looking for any house with lights on, she said. She came to a screeching halt on the front walk of 855 Weed St. and sounded her horn.
After she stumbled to the house, she rapped loudly on the front door, yelling to the residents who opened it, "My husband tried to kill me, and my daughters are in the car," she testified.
During the testimony, Colangelo used an overhead projector to show jurors photographs of Mary Farren, badly bruised and beaten, in the Norwalk Hospital emergency room. With a pointer, he asked her to describe the marks and blood on her head, face and back.
Unlike during the civil trial in December , which resulted in a jury awarding her $28.6 million in damages for the attack, a graphic video of Mary Farren in the emergency room that night was not shown to the jurors.
Defense attorney Eugene Riccio did not challenge the account of the assault, instead concentrating briefly on her history with the defendant. Under questioning, she said when she had her husband served with divorce papers at their home two days before the alleged attack, she had not told him the papers were coming.