Nine years into a 145-year sentence for sexual abuse -- a crime that his alleged victim insists never happened -- Charles Farrar has now filed what may be his last, best hope for freedom. It's a handwritten request for an appointed lawyer and a new hearing, based on claims of inadequate representation by his defense team and prosecutorial misconduct in the controversial case, the subject of my July feature "Beyond Belief."
In 2002, Farrar was found guilty by an Arapahoe County jury of multiple counts of sexual assault on a minor, 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.
Farrar's latest appeal, known as a 35(c) petition, is generally filed by the defendant himself after other appeal processes have been exhausted; the court can then appoint counsel and investigate further or deny the motion. Much of the document contends that Farrar's attorneys failed to conduct an adequate investigation of Sacha's claims, including failing to contact key witnesses interviewed for our feature. But Farrar also argues that Arapahoe County prosecutors violated his rights by failing to disclose critical information that could have acquitted him.
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"The heart of this entire case was based and came down to credibility," Farrar notes. Yet prosecutor Christine Schober failed to inform the defense that Sacha's grandmother had warned her that Sacha " tended to make things up and tell tall tales." Sacha's trial testimony also contradicted in significant ways the version of her story she told at a prior dependency and neglect hearing; since Schober later testified that she prepared for trial by studying the transcript of the prior hearing, Farrar argues that the prosecutor must have been aware of the shifting testimony and failed to correct it.
Can a convict's own legal footwork get him out of what amounts to a life sentence? "I don't hold out high hopes," Farrar wrote in a recent letter to Westword. "But I do believe the claims, or most of them, should warrant the Court to appoint counsel to proceed forward."
Farrar's supporters and family members have set up a Facebook page, Justice for Charles Farrar, seeking "ideas and suggestions" in his continuing battle to have the facts of his case reviewed.
More from our Follow That Story archive: "Charles Farrar on being denied new trial despite victim recanting in sex abuse case (VIDEO)."