A Texarkana pastor was sentenced to 15 years in prison and must register as a sex offender for sexually abusing two teen girls he met in church.
David Wayne Farren, 42, said his first "guilty" so quietly the court reporter and Circuit Judge Carlton Jones urged him to speak louder. Farren stood with Texarkana lawyer Jason Horton and entered guilty pleas to seven counts of first-degree sexual assault, one count of second-degree sexual assault and a misdemeanor charge of violating mandatory reporting requirements. Farren pleaded no contest to one count of second-degree sexual assault. Jones entered findings of guilt on all 10 charges.
As part of a plea bargain, Farren received nine 15-year prison sentences that will run concurrently. He received a four-day county jail sentence on the misdemeanor, with credit for four days served.
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Connie Mitchell said Farren's two victims approved of Farren's arrangement with the state, which spared them the trauma of testifying in a public jury trial. The victim listed in the seven first-degree felony counts, one second-degree felony count and the misdemeanor violation of mandatory reporting was the first to come forward, according to probable-cause affidavits used to create the following account.
The victim was 20 when she reported Farren's misconduct to Texarkana, Ark., police in July 2016. She said she first met Farren while a student at Trinity Christian School in Texarkana, Ark., and that he served as her youth minister at Heritage Baptist Church in Texarkana, Texas. The victim said she was in high school when she confided in Farren that she had been sexually abused in her earlier childhood.
Rather than report the abuse as the law requires members of the clergy to do, Farren began to victimize the girl. She told investigators she was at Farren's home babysitting when he first touched her sexually and that it was in his home on Bradley Street in Texarkana, Ark., that she had sex with him for the first time on her 17th birthday in 2013.
The victim reported that she and Farren had sex about 20 times at Farren's house when his wife was away, and on a piece of carpet in the garage when she was at home. The victim told investigators Farren said he did not divorce his wife because that would be a sin. The victim reported the sexual abuse ended in August 2013.
The first victim to come forward told investigators she felt compelled out of fear Farren was grooming another victim. She also said she believes she "took the place" of an older girl.
That older girl, now in her mid-20s, is the victim listed in one count of second-degree sexual assault. She met with investigators after Farren's arrest concerning the first victim to come forward. The second victim to report said Farren became close to her after her father's death. She said Farren began touching her inappropriately when she was 15 and Farren was her youth minister at Faith Baptist Church in Texarkana, Ark.
The second victim said she realized how much "control" Farren had over her after he placed a sexually oriented phone call to her while she was away at college. After that, she said she severed contact with him.
Farren confessed to the abuse described in eight of the felony counts and the misdemeanor count during an interview with police Aug. 3, 2016.
"This was a difficult day for everyone involved," Horton said. "Ultimately, David chose to accept responsibility for his actions, which will hopefully bring some form of closure to all of those affected by this case."
Mitchell, who handled the case for the state, lamented not only Farren's choice to sexually abuse girls who looked to him as a spiritual leader, but of his abuse of the trust of their parents and others in his church.
"As children, we are taught that church is a safe place, a place to grow and learn in our faith. As parents, we choose a church whose teaching and beliefs mirror our own. We trust our church leaders to guide and protect our children and help them to grow in their faith. There is no greater betrayal of our trust and faith as parents or children than when a church leader, a youth leader, preys on the children entrusted to his guidance and care," Mitchell said. "David Farren did just that. He betrayed the trust of the parents and children when he manipulated that trust and sexually assaulted members of his youth group while in a position of trust as their youth leader. He admitted his guilt to law enforcement and publicly to the court. I am thankful his victims were spared the necessity of a trial. I hope this closure can begin their healing process."
Upon release from prison, Farren must register as a sex offender.
Jones described the case as a "disheartening circumstance" after mentioning that his years as a prosecutor and a circuit judge have often left him "all out of surprises."
"I have been serving the state of Arkansas for over 20 years, and every day, I wake up and think the best possible thing I could do is resolve some of our country's ills. Today, I just don't know," Jones said. "Prison is significant to the criminal justice system. Some days that's all we can do."