A Portland man expecting to receive no new time behind bars in exchange for pleading guilty to child sex abuse was slapped with a 90-day jail sentence instead — after a judge wondered whether the man was truly sorry.
John R. Farris, 49, was released from Inverness Jail in Northeast Portland last week after pleading guilty in late February to three counts of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor. He will be required to register as a sex offender and spend five years on probation.
Farris preyed on the child beginning in 2006 when she was 14 years old and babysitting his children, she said in an interview, and he continued to groom her throughout high school.
The Oregonian/OregonLive doesn’t identify victims of sexual abuse.
“I was in no way a willing participant — as a kid, he was someone that I trusted,” she said. “My life was consumed with what this man was doing to me.”
Now 30, the woman said the abuse poisoned later relationships and forced her to repress most of her memories of high school, as those experiences are now inextricably linked with trauma.
After keeping it secret for years, the woman realized she needed to tell her family while undergoing therapy in 2018, she said. The case fell within the statute of limitations, but authorities were investigating a crime over a decade old.
Such delays in disclosure aren’t uncommon.
Washington County Senior Deputy District Attorney Andy Pulver, who prosecuted the case to avoid a potential conflict of interest in Multnomah County, says that about 95% of child sex abuse cases aren’t immediately disclosed, with reporting often taking months, years or even decades.
“John Farris was essentially able to infiltrate the life of this child,” he said. “She felt like this man was somebody who really cared about her when really all he was doing was using her for his own sexual purposes.”
Portland Police Bureau detectives tried to elicit a confession by having her phone Farris while surreptitiously taping the calls, but they were unsuccessful, she said. Authorities eventually pulled some evidence from old emails, she said, but weren’t sure what would happen at trial.
The woman said she signed off on a plea deal because it required an admission of guilty and registered Farris as a sex offender.
“My biggest fear was that he would walk away with absolutely nothing,” she said. “We got what we could get.”
But plea deals are only a recommended sentence, with the actual punishment ultimately up to the judge’s discretion.
During the sentencing hearing, defense attorney Barry Engle asked Multnomah County Circuit Judge Michael Greenlick to sentence Farris to time served, as he had spent more than a month in jail before posting bail after his arrest in 2019.
Farris expressed remorse in the courtroom, and in a statement relayed by his attorney said he had “taken responsibility and have publicly apologized for my poor judgment” and sincerely hopes that the woman heals.
But Greenlick zeroed in on Farris’ word choice during the hearing, noting that the former auto repair businessman had called his actions a “mistake.”
Greenlick responded that Farris mostly seemed sorry for the “impact this has had on your life.”
“This is not just a mistake, as you put it,” Greenlick said. “This was a series of actions over many years where you had hundreds of opportunities to evaluate your conduct.”
The woman said the sentence of jail time brought tears of relief to her eyes. Now she hopes other survivors will hear her story and consider reporting their abuse to authorities.
“I’m not afraid of him anymore,” she said. “Women need to understand they have a voice.”
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