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By Lisa Redmond

MediaNews

BOSTON — A former Shirley official, who was described as a “champion for good,” has been sentenced to 15 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to possessing and distributing child pornography over the Internet.

John R. Farrar, 48, of 120 Ayer Road, pleaded guilty in March to five counts of transporting and distributing child pornography, and one count of possessing child pornography.

At his sentencing hearing, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf agreed with a joint recommendation for 15 years in prison followed by five years of supervised release. Farrar, who was sentenced on his 13th wedding anniversary, received a postponement of his sentence. He must report to the federal prison at Devens on Aug. 13.

Farrar, a candidate for the Board of Selectmen in a special election in 2005, withdrew from the race that August, one day after his home was searched and he admitted in court documents that he distributed child pornography over the Internet.

Prosecutors alleged that Farrar invited others in online chat rooms to trade child porn with him. He then sent pornographic images, including videos, to an undercover FBI agent, who responded to Farrar’s invitation to trade, according to U.S. Attorney General Michael Sullivan.

Since returning to his hometown of Shirley in 1991, Farrar served on 13 boards, committees and commissions. During his tenure on town boards from 1993 to 2000, Farrar had served as a chairman of the Planning Board, Shirley Master Plan team leader, Zoning Board of Appeals clerk, and co-chairman of the Library Design Committee.

Jeanette Albert, a Shirley resident, wrote a letter of support for Farrar, describing him as a “champion for good.”

In another letter of support, one of at least seven sent to the court, Farrar’s wife, Kathleen Farrar, said her husband’s business enterprise of writing grants had him spending up to 80 hours a week at the office, put a strain on their marriage, so they added the Internet to their home so he could work from there.

In court documents, Kathleen Farrar said it was then that her husband became distant and spent more time on the computer. The couple went to counseling, but her husband became very depressed, she said. He participated in men’s group therapy for five years and started to take anti-depressants.

“Things were looking brighter,” she wrote.

But the couple’s income had dropped while Farrar was suffering from depression and they could no longer afford health insurance or his medication and therapy.

“It was when the FBI showed up that I knew something was horribly wrong,” she wrote. “I could not for the life of me believe that John would commit such a crime. But it happened. One day you wake up and your whole life has changed. It is very surreal.”

Kathleen Farrar wrote that her family has been heartbroken and devastated by her husband’s improprieties, but she has seen great changes in him since he was charged.

“He has not repeated his unhealthy behaviors and has great remorse for his infractions,” she wrote. “With the continuance of proper counseling and medications, I believe he is well on the road to recovery and will be able to manage this behavior.”

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