In January, a former Bush Administration lawyer was charged with attempted murder after allegedly strangling and beating his wife, a counsel at Skadden Arps. John Michael Farren, 57, served as deputy counsel to the president under President George W. Bush, as general counsel at Xerox Corp., and as Under Secretary of Commerce under President George H.W. Bush.
But if the allegations against him are true, this impressive résumé — and the wealth that came with it (more on that later) — didn’t stop J. Michael Farren from brutally attacking his wife, Mary Margaret Farren, an energy lawyer at Skadden. Mary Farren filed a $30 million lawsuit against her husband shortly after the alleged attack.
Last week, the Washington Post published a detailed profile of Mike Farren. It painted a picture of a man with some serious rage issues.
Highlights from the profile — plus additional tidbits we’ve gathered, including photos of the Farrens’ multimillion-dollar home in Connecticut, records of Michael Farren’s sales of Xerox stock, and his salary as a White House staffer — after the jump.
The Washington Post piece, by staff writer Karl Vick, begins with a harrowing description of Mary Farren (pictured) fleeing to the home of a family she didn’t know, after the alleged attack by her husband. The police were summoned:
[A police] officer found Farren on her side, inside the front door of the dumbfounded family’s house, shivering and pale under a pile of blankets in an expanding pool of blood.
She said her husband had tried to kill her, first with his hands, then with a metal flashlight, according to the police report. She said his plan was to kill her and then himself. She said that he was still at home, a mile away, and that there was a gun somewhere in the house.
The sergeant relayed the information to the squad cars screaming toward the house she had fled. And so what appeared before J. Michael Farren a year after leaving the White House were four police officers, two with shotguns, one with an assault rifle, one with a shield held across the other three, advancing toward the $4 million home of a man last employed as deputy counsel to the president of the United States.
“He said to me, ‘I am killing you’ as he was strangling me,” Mary Farren wrote in an affidavit from her hospital bed, private guards posted in the corridor. “Based on my husband’s past associations and resources, I will need enhanced personal security measures, including but not limited to bodyguards, for a substantial period of time.”
The statement was filed with a motion intended to prevent her husband, charged with attempted murder and strangulation, from making bail a Superior Court judge had set at $2 million.
A tidy sum — but one that Michael Farren normally might have been able to pay. According to Mary Farren’s lawsuit against her husband, he has $2.8 million in various bank accounts. But as a result of Mary Farren’s suit, a judge blocked Michael Farren from using certain marital assets to post bond. He remains in Garner Correctional Institution, a maximum security prison in Newtown, Connecticut.
How did Farren get so filthy rich? It certainly wasn’t from his time in the White House, when he earned $158,500 in 2008 — less than a first-year associate.
Apparently it was from his time as general counsel to Xerox, the $15 billion multinational corporation. According to SEC filings, Mike Farren sold over $3 million in Xerox stock between 2004 and 2007. Who says you can’t make a mint on the in-house side? See also Gregory Palm (general counsel to Goldman Sachs, who may have earned over $100 million over the years).
Perhaps Farren enjoyed this wealth, since it wasn’t something he grew up with:
Forty years before he lived in a house with a remote-control gate, John Michael Farren lived in a two-family home on Walnut Street in Naugatuck, Conn. His mother was a nurse, his father a police captain who had died when Michael was young.
“Just an Irish Catholic cop, brought his kids up in Naugatuck,” said Ellenor Rohfritch, Michael Farren’s sister, describing a working-class upbringing in a company town. “We grew up with U.S. Rubber Company. Everybody’s mom and dad worked.”
After graduating in 1972 from nearby Fairfield University, Farren went into politics. He worked on campaigns while getting a law degree at night from the University of Connecticut. In 1981, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he worked at the Republican National Committee and the Commerce Department (under President George H.W. Bush).
Following Clinton’s defeat of Bush in the 1992 election, Farren passed through the revolving door and joined Xerox, as a staff lobbyist. In May 1997, when he was 44, he married Mary Margaret Scharf, 31, a fellow lawyer and U. Conn. law grad. The Farrens went on to have two daughters (who were seven years old and four months old at the time of the alleged attack).
At Xerox, Farren worked his way up the ranks to general counsel, which is the post he held when he left in June 2007 for the White House counsel’s office in the second Bush Administration. Sources quoted by the Post talked about Farren’s brilliant mind — and fiery temper:
“His powers of analysis and memory are astounding. He’s somebody who can remember a fact from 20 years ago and how it relates to policy both then and now. Having said that, he definitely was — is — a very intense guy. Had a temper. He could get extremely angry, in a way that would stand out from other people.”
And from a White House colleague:
“When I saw him get really, really mad at people, it was if people didn’t show the proper deference to the hierarchy,” said the colleague, who asked not to be identified because of the notoriety of the Farren case.
“I never saw anybody at the White House get as mad at his secretaries and assistants. It was very unusual. He would raise his voice very high and get red-faced. He would gesticulate a lot.”
Yikes. The stereotype is that in-house and government lawyers like Farren are “nicer” than their Biglaw counterparts — but there’s an exception to every rule.
Much of the rest of the Post piece focuses on the problem of domestic violence and how it is a serious issue even in wealthy neighborhoods like New Canaan, Connecticut (where the Farrens lived). This did not come as a huge shock to us.
You don’t need to wear a wife beater to beat your wife. Just because you’re rich doesn’t mean you’re a good person. There’s an occasional undertone to the article — “Oh my goodness! Can you believe that rich people engage in domestic violence?” — that seems a bit heavy-handed.
Setting aside this small quibble, the article is a riveting read and well worth your time. We’ve mentioned just a few highlights. Check out the full piece here.
[FN1] The “owner’s estimate” on Zillow values the house at $6.6 million — which we’re sure is too high, although we’d rather not publicly disagree with Michael Farren, since he’s kinda scary. You can check out the house for yourself by spinning through the slideshow below.
There is some disagreement on the size of the house, located at 388 Wahackme Road. According to Zillow, it has 7 bedrooms, 7.5 baths, and 11,450 square feet. According to the Washington Post, it has a mere 5 bedrooms, 7 baths, and 9,500 square feet. Either way, though, the house is LARGE.
Case of John Michael Farren seen as refresher course on domestic violence [Washington Post]
A Portrait of the Former Bush Lawyer Accused of Attempted Murder [WSJ Law Blog]
Earlier: War of the Farrens: Skadden Counsel Files $30 Million Lawsuit Against Her Husband
Former White House Lawyer John Michael Farren Charged With Attempted Murder of His Skadden Counsel Wife