Former Elgin state Rep. Keith Farnham dies in prison at age 69

 
 
Updated 6/21/2017 4:33 PM
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  • Keith Farnham

    Keith Farnham

  • Former state Rep. Keith Farnham in March 2015 as he arrives in court for sentencing.

    Former state Rep. Keith Farnham in March 2015 as he arrives in court for sentencing. daily herald file photo

Keith Farnham, the former state representative from Elgin serving an eight-year federal term for child pornography, has died in prison. He was 69.

Farnham died Sunday, June 18, a prison official confirmed Wednesday.

Farnham had been in jail for about two years, having entered the federal jail in Butner, North Carolina, in May 2015.

At his March 2015 sentencing, his attorney, Terry Ekl, asked for leniency, saying Farnham was expected to live only a few more months. At the time, Farnham was in hospice care for pulmonary fibrosis lung disease and bladder cancer. He arrived in court in a wheelchair, using oxygen tubes to help him breathe.

Two weeks ago, Ekl received a letter from Farnham, thanking him for all he did for him.

"He must have known the end was near," Ekl said. "He held on much longer than we thought he would."

Ekl said Farnham was like two different people, one a likable state representative who promised to serve his constituents and protect children, and the other a sick man with a dark secret.

"If Farnham walked into your office, you'd say, 'Nicest guy in the world.' He seemed like a great guy. As a politician, he was genuinely well-liked by people. And yet he had this horrible addiction that was out of control," Ekl said. "You never know about people until you delve into their personal lives. The biggest take-away from Farnham's (story) is that you just don't know."

Farnham began his career as a commercial painter and was first elected to the Illinois House in 2008.

Days after federal agents searched his office and home, Farnham resigned in March 2014 citing "serious health issues." A month later, he was charged with possessing child pornography. Federal prosecutors said he had 2,765 images of children engaged in sex acts, including some on his state-owned computer, and some were violent acts with children as young as 2 or 3.

At his sentencing, Farnham apologized to his victims.

"I brought this upon them and for that I am truly sorry," he said. "I don't pray for forgiveness for the consequences, but I do pray for forgiveness for the acts."

Farnham was replaced in the legislature by former Elgin City Council member Anna Moeller.

"Keith Farnham committed reprehensible crimes and I continue to feel for the children who were harmed either directly or indirectly by him. And I pray his family finds peace," she said in a statement Wednesday.

Farnham's 2015 arrest stunned those who knew him in the Elgin community, former Mayor Ed Schock said.

"I always found Keith to be a very friendly guy. Very personable and kind," he said. "He was always talking about helping others, and doing things for others through various organizations he supported. I thought the world of him."

A rank-and-file Democrat, Farnham had perfect attendance to 2014 legislative sessions until the day he resigned.

"He was very much committed to Elgin," Schock said. "When I was mayor I would talk to Keith a lot. He'd come forward with ideas about how to help the city, and he was very involved in historic preservation."

Schock said he last spoke with Farnham a few years ago, before his arrest.

"I don't know a single person who knew him who wasn't completely taken aback and shocked by it," he said.

After his guilty plea, the state revoked Farnham's $1,200 monthly pension. In 2016, two children who were in the pornographic videos he shared online sued him.

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