Former Bush counsel charged in Conn. with trying to kill wife after she sought divorce

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — An attorney who worked in both Bush administrations was charged Thursday with trying to kill his wife by beating her with a flashlight and choking her two days after she delivered divorce papers.

John Michael Farren, 57, was arraigned on charges of strangulation and attempted murder and ordered held on $2 million bail.

His wife, Mary Farren, was beaten so severely Wednesday night at their New Canaan home that she was at points knocked unconscious and lost vision, police said. She managed to sound an alarm and flee the house with her two children.

Farren was general counsel at Xerox Corporation in 2007 when he was named deputy White House counsel during George W. Bush’s second term. He was previously undersecretary for international trade in the Department or Commerce under Bush’s father, President George H.W. Bush; deputy manager for the elder Bush’s 1992 re-election campaign; and deputy director for his transition team in 1989.

“We are saddened to hear the news,” said David Sherzer, spokesman for George W. Bush. “This is a personal matter and we will not be commenting on it.”

John Farren’s lawyer, Eugene Riccio, called it “a tragic situation” Thursday.

Mary Farren is stable at a hospital with a broken nose, broken jaw and other injuries. Her attorney, Andrew Bowman, declined to comment.

Mary Farren delivered divorce papers Monday, according to an arrest affidavit. John Farren wanted his wife to drop her divorce lawsuit, but she refused, saying she could not deal with his explosive temper, according to the affidavit. On Wednesday, Farren tackled her in a bedroom and pulled out some of her hair, police said.

Farren beat her with a metal flashlight until she lost consciousness, according to the affidavit. She woke up to him still hitting her; he then began choking her with his hands and caused her sight to fade, police said.

The woman eventually found and triggered an alarm system despite her temporary blindness, and John Farren began hitting her again with the flashlight and threatened to slit his wrists, police said. He entered a bathroom with a large knife and tried to get his wife to follow, but she ran to her daughter’s bedroom, screaming, “Daddy’s trying to kill me,” the affidavit said.

She ran with her 7-year-old daughter and baby to the garage, fled in a BMW, stopped at a house and sought help, the document said.

John Farren requested medical help for arm cuts and a neck abrasion, police said. They said he had marks around his neck from what appeared to be a leather belt. He was placed on suicide watch.

Fred Fielding, Farren’s former boss in the White House counsel office, said, “This report is sad and stunning, and completely out of character to anyone who knows or has worked with Mike.”

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