Farnham apologizes, gets 8 years in prison for child porn

 
 
Updated 3/19/2015 6:28 PM
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  • Former state Rep. Keith Farnham is surrounded by reporters as he leaves the 2nd District appellate courthouse in Elgin after being sentenced Thursday to eight years on child pornography charges.

      Former state Rep. Keith Farnham is surrounded by reporters as he leaves the 2nd District appellate courthouse in Elgin after being sentenced Thursday to eight years on child pornography charges. Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Former state Rep. Keith Farnham leaves the 2nd District appellate courthouse in Elgin after receiving his sentence at Thursday.

      Former state Rep. Keith Farnham leaves the 2nd District appellate courthouse in Elgin after receiving his sentence at Thursday. Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Former state Rep. Keith Farnham is surrounded by reporters as he leaves Illinois Second District Appellate Court in Elgin after being sentenced Thursday to eight years on child pornography charges.

      Former state Rep. Keith Farnham is surrounded by reporters as he leaves Illinois Second District Appellate Court in Elgin after being sentenced Thursday to eight years on child pornography charges. Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Former state Rep. Keith Farnham, in a wheelchair, leaves the 2nd District appellate courthouse in Elgin with his attorney Terry Ekl, far right, after being sentenced to eight years in prison for child pornography.

      Former state Rep. Keith Farnham, in a wheelchair, leaves the 2nd District appellate courthouse in Elgin with his attorney Terry Ekl, far right, after being sentenced to eight years in prison for child pornography. Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Former state Rep. Keith Farnham's attorney Terry Ekl talks to the media after Farnham's sentencing at the 2nd District appellate courthouse in Elgin Thursday.

      Former state Rep. Keith Farnham's attorney Terry Ekl talks to the media after Farnham's sentencing at the 2nd District appellate courthouse in Elgin Thursday. Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

  • Former state Rep. Keith Farnham arrives for sentencing at the 2nd District appellate courthouse in Elgin Thursday morning.

      Former state Rep. Keith Farnham arrives for sentencing at the 2nd District appellate courthouse in Elgin Thursday morning. Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

A federal judge sentenced disgraced former state Rep. Keith Farnham to eight years in prison Thursday on child pornography charges.

Describing the charges as despicable, U.S. District Judge Edmond E. Chang also ordered Farnham to pay a $30,000 fine. Farnham, 67, must surrender to the Federal Bureau of Prisons by May 19 to begin serving his sentence.

"A lifetime of achievement was undermined by causing a lifetime of harm," Chang said, referring to the victims depicted in the photographs and videos, which federal prosecutors described as showing violent sexual acts involving children as young as 2 or 3.

Farnham apologized to the victims "of these horrendous crimes" depicted in the photos and videos, saying, "I apologize for my gross misjudgment in viewing these images online."

Farnham, who is said to be terminally ill and uses supplemental oxygen, also apologized to his family.

"I brought this upon them and for that I am truly sorry," he said from his wheelchair.

"I don't pray for forgiveness for the consequences, but I do pray for forgiveness for the acts," he said.

A woman who claimed Farnham molested her when she was a child read a statement during the 75-minute hearing. The woman, a relative of Farnham's wife, said she was an adult when she recalled being abused.

"I finally knew why I had done all the things I have done, who I was and why I hated myself," said the woman. "My life has been permanently altered ... as a result of what he did to me, starting when I was 8 years old."

Farnham has insisted he never physically abused anyone and he has not been charged with doing so. Defense attorney Terry Ekl called the woman, who admitted having a troubled past that included time in prison, "a liar."

"In the strongest possible terms my client denies the allegation," he said. Chang handed down the sentence a year to the day after the Elgin Democrat resigned his Illinois House seat following a raid on his home and offices by federal agents.

Chang agreed to move the sentencing hearing from Chicago to the 2nd District appellate courthouse in Elgin, closer to the former lawmaker's home, after Ekl informed the court Farnham was too weak to travel to the Dirksen Federal Building.

Federal prosecutors initially sought a sentence of 12½ to 15½ years for Farnham, who pleaded guilty in December to transporting child pornography. The conditions of his plea required him to register as a sex offender. His conviction stripped him of his state pension. By trading and sharing those pornographic images, Farnham helped perpetuate the crimes against the victims, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Storino.

"Every time he sent an email, he re-victimized those children," Storino said, and all while serving as an elected official.

Farnham led two separate lives: a public life as a state representative who promised to serve his constituents and protect children, and "a private life where ... on government time using government property he proceeded to exploit children," Storino said.

A significant prison sentence would deter others like him, Storino said. Additionally, it would send a message to the public and to victims that "no matter who you are, this will not be tolerated."

Farnham, a former commercial painter, admitted possessing 2,765 computer images of children engaged in sex acts. Farnham said he became addicted to adult pornography and subsequently became fascinated with child pornography.

Citing his client's poor health, Ekl urged the court to consider the minimum sentence of five years for his client, who has pulmonary fibrosis and bladder cancer and is currently receiving hospice care.

"Mr. Farnham is going to die within the next three or four months," Ekl said. "His life is going to end in total humiliation and embarrassment for committing the acts that brought these charges to light."

In a court filing, Ekl stated Farnham had been sexually abused as a child and sexually assaulted at age 13 by a man. Ekl asked the court to consider that abuse as a mitigating factor in sentencing, along with Farnham's honorable discharge after seven years as a U.S. Navy Reservist and the absence of a criminal background as an adult.

Ekl also asked the court to consider his client's admission of guilt in mitigation.

"Mr. Farnham accepts responsibility for what he did and that he contributed harm to the victims in this case," said Ekl, who believes his client's contrition is sincere.

"His conduct has eaten him up inside," Ekl said.

Farnham was charged on April 28, 2014, and released on $4,500 bail two days later. Since then, he has been confined to his home and prohibited from using the computer, accessing the Internet and having unsupervised contact with anyone under age 18.

His arrest followed a March 13, 2014, raid on his home and office by Department of Homeland Security agents who were investigating an email address -- later linked to Farnham -- that was being used to trade child pornography online.

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