Criminal Justice

Ex-White House Attorney Charged in Attempted Murder of His Wife, a Skadden Lawyer

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A 57-year-old former deputy White House counsel has been charged with attempted murder after allegedly beating his wife with a flashlight and choking her in their Connecticut home.

John Michael Farren is being held in lieu of $2 million bail in the claimed attack on Mary Margaret Farren, 43, who has a counsel position in the Washington, D.C, office of Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, according to the Connecticut Law Tribune.

An arrest affidavit says he attacked her after she delivered divorce papers, the legal publication recounts. She is now hospitalized with a broken jaw and nose, another injury to the back of her head and lacerations. According to the Associated Press, the attack occurred Wednesday and the divorce papers were delivered Monday.

Citing the arrest affidavit, another AP article says Farren attacked his wife after she refused to drop the divorce suit, telling him she couldn’t deal with his explosive temper.

He allegedly attacked her in a bedroom, pulling out some of her hair, before he began beating her with a metal flashlight. She lost consciousness, then awakened as he continued hitting her and started to strangle her with his hands, the AP reports, recounting the details provided in the affidavit.

Temporarily blinded, she nonetheless managed to hit a panic button on an alarm system as he allegedly began hitting her again with the flashlight and threatened to slit his wrists with a large knife, the article says. At that point, Farren ran to her 7-year-old daughter’s room and fled the house with the girl and the couple’s 4-month-old baby in a BMW.

John Farren served as deputy White House counsel under former President George W. Bush. He was counsel at Wiggin and Dana in New Haven in the late 1980s before he was appointed Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade by former President George H.W. Bush, the Law Tribune article says.

He is also a former general counsel at Xerox Corp., the Washington Post’s 44 blog notes.

Both Farrens are graduates of the University of Connecticut School of Law and have been married since 1997.

Arraigned today in Norwalk Superior Court, John Farren had a large bandage on the right side of his neck and was on a suicide watch, reports Greenwich Time. The newspaper, citing an unidentified source, says he may have attempted suicide after the alleged attack. (An AP article includes a photo of a handcuffed John Farren with the neck bandage clearly visible.)

None of the articles states where John Farren is currently employed.

He is charged with attempted murder and first-degree strangulation, Greenwich Time reports.

New Canaan police say Farren’s wife was found by police bleeding at neighbor’s house, the Stamford Advocate reports.

A judge has issued a protective order, and lawyers have been debating whether the bail amount should be increased to $3 million or reduced to $500,000.

The Law Tribune article says state bar authorities have started proceedings to suspend John Farren’s law license, although he has no prior history of discipline in Connecticut. He has been admitted there since 1982.

Attorney Eugene Riccio of Bridgeport., Conn., who is representing John Farren, describes the situation as tragic.

“It’s just so sad, and so shocking, and so out of character to anyone who knows or who has worked with Mike,” former White House attorney Fred Fielding tells the Blog of Legal Times. Now a partner at Morgan Lewis & Bockius, Fielding formerly was Farren’s boss when serving as counsel to President George W. Bush.

The BLT article includes a copy of a lengthy 1992 profile of John Farren, who is also known as J. Michael Farren. It says he is currently a member of The Aspen Institute’s board of advisers. The group holds conferences on leadership and public policy.

Updated at 6 p.m. to add information from Blog of Legal Times post and at 6:15 p.m. to include and accord with information from the Associated Press and Stamford Advocate. Last updated at 7:30 p.m. with information from more recent Associated Press coverage.

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