Charles Farrar: Judge refuses to reduce sentence in sex-abuse case despite recantation

Charles Farrar is serving what amounts to a life sentence for sexual assault on a child -- even though his accuser, his stepdaughter Sacha, came forward months after the verdict and admitted to fabricating her elaborate story about years of sexual abuse.

And that situation isn't going to change any time soon.

Days after our cover story on the Farrar case attracted widespread attention, Arapahoe District Judge Valeria Spencer ruled on Farrar's motion for reconsideration of his sentence, which was filed in her court nearly two years ago. Spencer denied the request, stating that Sacha's 2003 recantation failed to meet the standard of "exceptional, unusual, and extenuating circumstances" that would warrant a reduction in the hundred-plus years Farrar is required to serve for his conviction on 22 counts of sexual abuse.

Farrar had previously sought to have his conviction overturned, based on the "new evidence" of the recantation. His attorneys argued that, since the prosecution's case consisted largely of Sacha's testimony -- there was no evidence to support her account of having endured years of sexual abuse by Farrar and her own mother, and little indication that investigators had even bothered to interview other potential witnesses -- her claims were invalidated when she later admitted to committing perjury and concocting the allegations in order to go live with her grandparents.

The trial judge, John Leopold, denied that motion shortly before his retirement; in 2009 the Colorado Supreme Court upheld Leopold's ruling 4-3. Farrar's attorneys then sought to have his sentence trimmed, based on the recantation and his exemplary prison record. But Judge Spencer followed Leopold's reasoning that state law requires courts to regard all recantations of sexual abuse claims with suspicion because of the presumed pressure on victims by other family members to "make things right."

As for Farrar's conduct in prison, Spencer noted that Farrar maintains his innocence -- which, in the Orwellian world of sex offender treatment programs, makes him a poor candidate for early release. "He still contends that he has been wrongfully convicted," Spencer wrote. "As such, the Defendant does not express any remorse or accept any responsibility... if the Defendant maintains this position, he would not be and could not be successful in the sex offender intensive supervised probation because the Defendant would be required to admit to the sexual abuse he denies."

Mark Walta, Farrar's attorney, says he and his client will review the ruling and discuss their options. "The upshot is that Sacha's word was good enough to convict Charles, but it's not good enough to free him," he says.

See video excerpts of Farrar and his accuser in previous Latest Word posts here and here.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Alan Prendergast has been writing for Westword for over thirty years. He teaches journalism at Colorado College; his stories about the justice system, historic crimes, high-security prisons and death by misadventure have won numerous awards and appeared in a wide range of magazines and anthologies.
Contact: Alan Prendergast