January 7, 2010 4:50 PM

Ex-Bush Attorney Accused of Attempting to Murder his Wife, a Skadden Partner

Posted by Zach Lowe

Update (5:02 p.m.): The Legal Times, an Am Law Daily sibling publication, has reproduced an interesting profile of Farren from all the way back in 1992, when he was working on trade issues for the first President Bush. The profile details the role Farren played in several controversial trade decisions that alienated some American business sectors and grated on other key Bush administration members. 

A really awful story coming out of Connecticut: A former deputy counsel to President George W. Bush has been charged with attempted murder and strangulation for allegedly beating his wife, a Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom attorney, with a flashlight and choking her until she passed out, according to the Associated Press and the Stamford (Conn.) Advocate

The suspect, John Michael Farren, is being held on $2 million bond and is on suicide watch in a Connecticut jail, the Advocate reports. His wife, Mary Margaret Farren, of counsel at Skadden, is hospitalized in Norwalk, Conn., having suffered a broken jaw, nose, various lacerations and an injury to the back of her head, according to the AP and the Advocate. John Michael Farren, 57, also a former general counsel at Xerox, allegedly attacked his wife Wednesday night at his home after she served him with divorce papers, the AP reports. 

Mary Margaret Farren is listed as of counsel in Skadden's Washington, D.C., office. The couple has been married since 1997 and has two kids--a six-year-old and a four-month-old, the Advocate reports. 

Mary Margaret Farren managed to escape from the house during the alleged attack and ran to a neighbor's house, where police found her bleeding from her head, face and body, police in New Canaan, Conn., told the Advocate. Her lawyer, Andrew Bowman, told a state court judge during a hearing today that she was going in and out of consciousness when she was first admitted to Norwalk Hospital Wednesday night, the Advocate says. 

Just a terrible, terrible story.

One interesting legal angle for those interested in criminal law: Connecticut is one of a small handful of states to have a statute defining strangulation as a separate crime from general assault, according to the blog A Public Defender, which is written by an anonymous public defender working in Connecticut. There are two degrees of the crime, and it ranks higher on the felony scale than the assault crimes it is closest to in terms of seriousness. 

The lesser version of the crime, second-degree strangulation, is codified as follows: "A person is guilty of strangulation in the second-degree when such person restrains another person by the neck or throat with the intent to impede the ability of such other person to breathe or restrict blood circulation of such other person and such person impedes the ability of such other person to breathe or restricts blood circulation of such other person."

It was big news in Connecticut when the legislature enacted this law in 2008. (We were working as a reporter there at the time). Domestic violence advocates lobbied hard for the law, while some defense lawyers worried it would result in suspects being charged twice for the same crime (i.e., assault and strangulation). 

John Michael Farren is listed as deputy general counsel to President George W. Bush in this Washington Post item, and the Advocate identifies him as under secretary of Commerce for international trade for President George H. W. Bush. 

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