Jury Awards $28.6 Million in Damages to Wife for Brutal Beating by Washington Power-Player Husband

Mary Farren's ex-husband was a former White House deputy counsel under Bush 2.

December 17, 2013, 7:34 PM

Dec. 18, 2013— -- After five and a half days of hearing from multiple witnesses and viewing dramatic photos and videos, a Stamford, Conn., jury of six awarded Mary Margaret Farren $28.6 million.

Farren filed a civil suit against her ex-husband, John Michael Farren -- a deputy White House counsel under George W. Bush -- seeking damages in the millions for a brutal bludgeoning she endured at their New Canaan mansion nearly four years ago.

On Jan. 4, 2010, Mary Farren, 47, herself an accomplished attorney and once a rising star at prestigious Skadden Arps in Washington, D.C., served John Farren, 61, with divorce papers.

Last Friday, in an emotional morning of testimony in Stamford Superior Court, she told the jury that she watched for two days as the father of her two children became agitated and angered by her refusal to adhere to his demands to withdraw the papers. While she agreed to a reconciliation, which would delay the divorce for six months, and go to counseling, she said her husband would hear none of that.

And on the evening of Jan. 6, Farren said her husband "went berserk" and launched an assault on her that would leave her with a host of permanent physical, psychological and emotional problems.

"Daddy Is Trying to Kill Me " -- Mary Farren

For nearly 90 minutes, Mary Farren recounted to the jury the events that unfolded that horrific night and the lasting effects the assault has had on her and her children.

She testified that Farren had wrapped his hands around her neck, threw her to the ground and delivered blow after blow while pulling out clumps of her hair. Crying, she told the jury that Farren said, "I'm killing you" just before he smashed her over the head with a Maglight flashlight.

Certain she was going to die, she told the jury she was terrified about what would happen to her then 7-year-old and 4- month-old daughters. In what she described as a rush of adrenaline, she said she crawled to the front of the bedroom, pulled herself up on a dresser and hit a security button mounted on the wall that would alert authorities to an emergency.

Bleeding profusely from her head and wavering in and out of consciousness, Farren told a teary-eyed jury that she managed to get to her oldest daughter's bedroom and ordered her into the car. "Daddy is trying to kill me," she said.

Determined to ensure her children's safety, she stumbled to her infant's room, scooped her out of the crib "like a football" and placed her in the front seat of the car. Although she said her vision was blurry, she sped down the street until she found a house with lights on. Feeling as if she were about to black out, she drove onto the front lawn of John and Barbara Achenbaum's house.

"Couldn't Distinguish Her Features. There Was Blood Everywhere. Her Hair Was Wild" -- Barbara Achenbaum, Testifying in Court

There was a loud screech, a horn blare and a loud bang at the front door, John Achenbaum told the jury. Upon answering the door, Farren told Achenbaum that her children were in the car and "my husband is trying to kill me. I'm going to die" before collapsing in the Achenbaum's foyer.

It was something you "could see in a horror film," Barbara Achenbaum told the jury. You "couldn't distinguish her features, there was blood everywhere. Her hair was wild," Achenbaum said.

When Farren awoke in the hospital, she said her "head felt pulverized." Clinging to life, she said she was "cold, drained and in incredible pain." Numerous medical professionals testified about the lengthy recovery and rehabilitation related to her traumatic brain injury and lacerations.

She said she still regularly has headaches, vertigo, memory loss and a host of other medical problems resulting from the beating. Dr. Wilfred Van Gorp testified that Farren suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain disorder, and will never be able to fully function the way she once did.

Always "hyper vigilant," Farren said she lives in constant fear for her safety and that of her daughters. They all live in an undisclosed location out of state.

"He wants me dead," she told the jury. John Farren, who is under house arrest and living with his sister, is under a "no contact order."

The court did not hear from the defense at any time during the trial. John Farren, who chose to represent himself, did not step foot in the courthouse after the jury was selected.

On the day opening arguments were set to take place, Mary Farren's attorneys, Ernie Teitell and Paul Slager, filed a motion to default because of John Farren's failure to appear in court. The next morning, Judge Genuario granted that motion. From there, the court proceeded to the Hearings in Damages portion of the trial.

Several attempts by ABC News to reach John Farren for comment on his ex-wife's testimony or on the jury award were not immediately successful.

As the civil case moved ahead, the criminal trial is pending -- the trial is expected to start next spring. John Farren faces charges of attempted murder, first-degree assault and risk of injury to a child, and if convicted, could face 70 years behind bars. According to the Stamford Advocate, Farren has dumped his lawyer, "filed and contested various motions," and recently petitioned to be represented by a public defender, claiming he's destitute. The court has said he doesn't qualify for a public defender.

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