Charles Farrar: Appeal denied in sex-abuse case despite "victim" recanting

"My options are narrowing," says Charles Farrar, phoning from the Sterling Correctional Facility.

And so they are. Farrar has just learned that his handwritten appeal of his 145-year sentence for child sexual abuse -- a series of crimes that his accuser now insists never happened -- has been rejected by Arapahoe County Judge Valeria Spencer.

Spencer's ruling is brief, dismissive and a bit impatient, stating that many of Farrar's arguments have already been considered and rejected in previous appeals. At one point it states that the facts support Farrar's claims of prosecutorial misconduct, when the judge clearly meant to say that the facts don't support such claims.

To Farrar, the ruling seems as hasty and sloppy in its rush to dispose of the matter as the rest of the justice system's dealings with him and the life sentence he received.

The subject of last year's feature "Beyond Belief," Farrar's case is a stunning illustration of how serious child abuse cases can hinge almost entirely on the credibility of the victim -- even after that credibility has been thoroughly demolished. In 2002, Farrar was found guilty by a jury of multiple counts of sexual assault on his stepdaughter Sacha, who accused him and her mother of forcing her into sexual encounters from the age of eleven until she was fifteen. There was no physical evidence in the case and minimal investigation by authorities, who relied almost entirely on Sacha's testimony. But a few months later, after refusing to testify against her mother, Sacha returned to court and recanted her story, saying she'd fabricated the entire tale in order to go live with her grandparents.

Judge John Leopold refused to grant Farrar a new trial, concluding that Sacha's recantation wasn't any more credible than her original testimony. Colorado case law urges courts to regard recantations in sex abuse cases skeptically, since victims might be pressured by family members to withdraw allegations. But Sacha has stood by her recantation for the past eight years and wasn't living with family at the time she admitted perjury. A narrowly divided Colorado Supreme Court upheld the conviction in 2009.

Westword's investigation found that Sacha had a history of making up stories and threatening to accuse people of serious crimes, and that key family members who knew about her efforts to recant even before Farrar's trial were never interviewed by investigators. In his latest appeal, known as a 35 (c) petition, Farrar contends that his own attorneys failed to conduct an adequate investigation of Sacha's claims and that prosecutors violated his rights by failing to disclose critical information that could have acquitted him.

In denying the petition, Judge Spencer scarcely addresses the latter contention, merely noting that "this issue has been addressed at great length by the Court's [sic] in its order denying Defendant's motion for a new trial. It will not be addressed again."

Farrar had hoped to obtain a new hearing, as well as appointment of a new attorney, to pursue his claims. Outside supporters are now trying to raise funds to hire an attorney. "I do have people advocating for me," Farrar says, "and if we can get legal representation, perhaps we can get someone to look at the evidence."

Those supporters, including Sacha, regularly weigh in on the Facebook page Justice for Charles Farrar. They've also set up a non-personal account to raise money for a legal defense fund; donations can be made at any TCF Bank branch, directed to the account Justice for Charles Farrar.

More from our Follow That Story archive: "Preview: Meet Charles Farrar, serving life for sex crime that never happened (VIDEO)."

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