During five years in the Illinois General Assembly, Keith Farnham cultivated a reputation as a successful businessman, military veteran, and ironically, co-sponsor of two bills increasing penalties for child pornography.
On Thursday, the Elgin Democrat was sentenced to eight years in prison, on charges that he possessed and traded thousands of child porn images.
Arriving in a wheelchair, toting oxygen, and according to his attorney, terminally ill, Farnham never contested the allegations.
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“I don’t pray for forgiveness from the consequences,” Farnham told Federal Judge Edmond Chang, in an Elgin courtroom. “But I do pray for forgiveness for from the acts.”
In sentencing Farnham, the judge rejected appeals from Farnham’s attorney Terry Ekl, that his client be allowed to die “with some dignity” at home. Ekl said doctors had informed Farnham that he could have as little as three or four months to live.
“Keith Farnham is likely to die a painful death,” Ekl said. “Part of the punishment, is that he is going to die in total humiliation.”
Prosecutor Timothy Storino argued against mitigating Farnham’s sentence.
“His health is no excuse for what he did,” Storino said. “It would show other people who are thinking of doing this, that they’d better think twice.”
Storino said Farnham first came under federal scrutiny in 2004, when his email address was associated with child-related sites online. But investigators who examined Farnham’s computers failed at the time to find any evidence on Farnham’s computers.
But agents returned to Farnham’s home and office last year, and said they found at least 2700 videos and photos. Among those, were images depicting children as young as six months. They noted that in one chat room, Farnham left a message stating, “Twelve is about as old as I can handle. I love them at 6, 7, and 8.”
During the hearing, a woman identified only as “ML”, testified that she was sexually abused by Farnham as a child. The woman, who is related to Farnham’s wife, said that the abuse began when she was eight years old.
“He’s been doing it for many years,” she said. “He likes it.”
The woman urged Judge Chang to give Farnham the maximum sentence. But Ekl called the woman a “flat out liar.” And he argued that a stiff sentence would serve no purpose, since his client will likely be dead within six months.
“The kind of people who are on the internet looking at child porn are not going to be deterred by the sentence in this case,” Ekl said.
When it was his turn to speak, Farnham apologized to the children depicted in the photos, and to his family.
“I want to say how sorry I am to the victims of these horrendous crimes,” he said. “I know from my own life, that abuse as a child has a devastating effect on your whole life.”
In a presentence filing, the defense claimed Farnham was himself sexually abused between 6 and 10 by an older boy, and later by an adult in New York City.
But Judge Chang was unmoved.
“This is a despicable crime,” he said. “You did send and trade in child pornography.”
He noted that for the child victims, each image “represents their own nightmare.”
Ekl had urged the judge to delay Farnham’s required surrender date. But the judge set the date for May 19th, and ordered the former lawmaker to pay a $30,000 fine.
Leaving court, Farnham declined to comment on the sentence, choosing instead to thank the reporters and photographers who surrounded his wheelchair as he was ushered to a waiting car.
“I’m glad you came,” he said. “You guys do a good job.”