Mary Margaret Scharf Farren, 43, is an attorney at the prestigious Skadden, Arps firm in Washington, D.C. She lives in a 4,300 square foot mansion on a heavily wooded lot with a swimming pool at 388 Wahackme Road in New Canaan, CT. Their home is worth $4.8 million.
When she married J. Michael Farren, 57, in Washington, D.C. on May 3, 1997, the marriage was reported in the New York Times. Her husband was at the time a vice president at Xerox. He had previously served in the cabinet of Pres. George H.W. Bush as Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade. He also served under Pres. George W. Bush as White House deputy counsel.
Sounds like a fantasy, eh?
Explosive Rage Behind Closed Doors
On Monday, January 4, 2010, Ms. Farren served divorce papers on her husband. He had been emotionally abusive and hit her once three years ago.
On Wednesday, January 6, Ms. Farren attempted to discuss the divorce with her husband. He wanted to reconcile. She refused due to his explosive temper. In typical pit bull fashion, he attempted to murder her in their third-floor master bedroom.
The police report details a bloody battle. Mr. Farren tackled her to the floor, pulled out “gobs of hair,” and beat her with a metal flashlight until she passed out. He strangled her until she lost her sight. She regained consciousness, but couldn’t see to hit the panic alarm. He threatened:
. . .don’t hit the alarm button. . .
At 10:00 PM, she found it and the alarm sounded. “He went nuts” and continued to beat her with the flashlight.
Then, he got a large knife and threatened to slit his wrists. Ms. Farren seized the opportunity to flee with the couple’s two young daughters, and infant and a 7-year-old:
. . .daddy’s trying to kill me. We have to leave now.
Ms. Farren drove her BMW to a neighbor’s house at 855 Weed Street ~ the first house she saw with lights on. She didn’t know her neighbors, but they responded when she honked the car’s horn and banged on their door. They must have been horrified to open their door to see a woman bleeding profusely with two little kids in her car.
Ms. Farren’s was hospitalized for a broken jaw, facial fractures, and lacerations.
John Michael Farren was arrested for attempted murder, first-degree assault, and first-degree strangulation. He was placed on suicide watch in the jail’s psychiatric ward.
Will Ms. Farren Be Safe?
Mr. Farren pled not guilty. Judge Bruce P. Hudock set bail at $2 million and issued an order of protection. Mr. Farren was ordered to surrender his passport and shotgun. Ms. Farren’s attorney Andrew Bowman told the judge:
She is terrified of him and we ask as many restrictions be placed upon him as possible.
She believes that when he is released that he will find her and kill her and their children. She has requested bodyguards and personal security measures given his “past associations and resources.” In other words, she knows he can easily hire a hit man.
She is suing her husband for $30 million because her injuries prevent her from working. If convicted, her husband could be sentenced to 30 years in prison. In addition, she is concerned he will use their $4.8 million home as collateral for his $2 million bond. In her affidavit she told the court:
Given the community in which we live, and the station of living to which we are accustomed, and our plans for the future life and education of our children, the defendant’s obligations to support his children are substantial.
The Stamford Advocate reported the couple has substantial assets including:
. . .several bank accounts containing hundreds of thousands of dollars, one with $1.8 million and another with $1 million.
A judge froze $15 million of Mr. Farren’s assets. A request to suspend his law license was denied because the judge didn’t think there was a risk he’d be representing clients from the jail’s psychiatric ward.
Mr. Farren’s Fall from Grace
Mr. Farren had been a rising star in the Republican Party. But, he apparently hasn’t worked since he left the Bush Administration under a bit of a cloud in July, 2008. I’m a little curious about how a guy making $158,500/year collected such massive assets.
“It seems like a pretty big fall from being general counsel at Xerox and the number two at the Department of Commerce.”
Farren also seems to have made some enemies within the Republican Party during his time in Washington. . .served as deputy campaign manager for the George H.W. Bush’s re-election campaign, he also left the Department of Commerce in 1992 for what one presidential aide described as “delibertately trying to manufacture unnecessary political controversies,” according to [an April 20] 1992 story in the Legal Times. . .
. . .Farren had angered some Republicans and corporate backers for taking a tough stance on foreign companies that violated laws by selling imported products at below-market rates. “He has a prickly nature, is hot-tempered and stubborn.”
The original 1992 Legal Times article “Bush’s Trade Strongman. . .Pursues Task with Politically Costly Zeal” was reprinted in their blog:
. . .due to his energetic role in several highly charged trade issues, Farren’s stock at the White House is falling. . .
Farren, whose decisions affect key sectors of the American economy, supervises a small army of bureaucrats who are charged with protecting troubled U.S. companies from unfair trade practices. . .anti-dumping. . .import restrictions affecting steel, semiconductors, machine tools, lumber, and automobiles. . .threatening thousands of U.S. jobs. . .[If you don’t have a manufacturing-related job now, you can pretty much blame Mr. Farren.]
“Farren has recently dropped three turds in Bush’s lap.”
Four officials. . .are tired of spending their days trying to resolve controversies that. . .should have been handled more deftly by Farren.
The Stamford Advocate reported that he was involved in the scandal involving the dismissal of several U.S. attorneys.
This is why reporters and bloggers are raising their eyebrows over a statement made by Fred Fielding, who was Mr. Farren’s boss at the White House:
This report [of the attempted murder] is sad and stunning and completely out of character to anyone who knows or has worked with Mike.
Other Republican politicians are drawing ire for brushing attempted murder off as a “private matter.”
Abuse of Power Begins at Home
This case is exactly why I so frequently get on my soapbox about breaking down the walls of silence about domestic violence.
The general public doesn’t connect the dots between the loss of their jobs and what went on behind closed doors and locked security gates in Connecticut. Powerful men who abuse their loved ones tend to abuse the power entrused to them too.
Mr. Farren isn’t the first Bush administration official who engaged in deadly domestic violence. On July 13, 2006, William H. Lash III, who was assistant secretary of commerce, murdered his 12-year-old autistic son before turning the shotgun on himself. His wife, Sharon K. Zackula, had just fled the house after being physically assaulted by her husband. They lived in McLean, Virginia.
Updates: This post was picked up by the Washington Post. They have investigative journalism resources humble bloggers like me don’t have to dig into stories like this one. So, I hope you’ll click on the link to read what they uncovered.
Ms. Farren was awarded $28 million in damages: Former White-House attorney for George W. Bush ordered to pay $28 million to wife he “tried beat to death with a flashlight” when she handed him divorce papers, Daily Mail, 12/18/13
John Michael Farren was found guilty: Former White House lawyer for George W. Bush faces up to 50 years in jail for trying to kill wife by beating her to death in their multimillion dollar mansion, Daily Mail, 7/11/14; Former White House attorney under both Bush administrations convicted of trying to kill wife by Sasha Goldstein, New York Daily News, 7/11/14
Ms. Farren told her story to 20/20.