Criminal Justice

Conn. Used Newer Strangulation Statute to Charge Ex-White House Lawyer

One of the charges against the former White House lawyer accused of beating and choking his wife was specifically created to deal with domestic violence cases.

John Michael Farren was charged with attempted murder, first-degree assault and first-degree strangulation in the alleged attack early last month. Connecticut passed a law making both first- and second-degree strangulation a felony in 2007, responding to concerns that prosecutors did not have the proper laws to charge alleged domestic abusers, the Connecticut Law Tribune reports.

Police allege Farren beat his wife, Margaret Farren, with a flashlight and choked her in their Connecticut home. Margaret Farren, a lawyer at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, managed to escape after hitting a panic button on an alarm system, police say. She has since filed a $30 million lawsuit against her husband for the alleged attack.

Connecticut was the 17th state to make strangulation a separate crime, the Law Tribune says. Now 27 states have such laws on the books, thanks in part to a former San Diego prosecutor who pushed for a felony option.

Before ex-prosecutor Gael Strack began her campaign, domestic abusers were often charged with misdemeanor assault or breach of the peace, the story says. Strack learned that strangulation can be a red flag in domestic violence cases when investigating the murders of two teens about 10 years ago.

According to Strack, prosecuting a strangulation as a misdemeanor sends the wrong message. It says, “I can choke you close to death and nobody’s going to do anything about it,” she told the Law Tribune.

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