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Ex-State Rep. Keith Farnham gets 8 years for child porn trafficking

Former State Rep. Keith Farnham must die behind bars for his “despicable crime” of trafficking child pornography, a federal judge decided Thursday.

And U.S. District Judge Edmond Chang put an exclamation mark on the terminally ill 67-year-old Elgin Democrat’s public disgrace, sentencing Farnham to 8 years in prison after finding it more likely than not that Farnham had personally sexually abused a young girl.

Though Farnham has pulmonary fibrosis, bladder cancer and hepatitis C, and is expected to die within three months, the judge refused his request to be allowed to delay his sentence so that he could “die in dignity” at his home.

“I’m not sure that there’s anything I or anyone else can do to restore his dignity,” Chang said, ordering Farnham to report to prison in 60 days.

Farnham, who appeared in court Thursday in a wheelchair, breathing from an oxygen tank, pleaded guilty in December to collecting more than 2,700 sick pictures and videos by trading with other pedophiles online.

The images he traded for from his home, his district office and from a Springfield hotel room included those depicting sadistic and sexual abuse of children as young as 6 months. In one email seized by investigators, he boasted to a man with whom he was trading child pornography that he had himself sexually abused a 6-year-old girl.

In another, he wrote, “12 is about as old as I can handle — what I really like is 6, 7, 8.”

During his emotionally raw sentencing hearing Thursday — moved from the federal courthouse in downtown Chicago to the Illinois Appellate Court, Second District, in Elgin so that it would be easier for the ailing Farnham to attend — Farnham apologized to the victims depicted in the images but denied personally abusing anyone.

“I want to say how sorry I am to the victims of these crimes,” Farnham said. “I, too, was a victim of sexual abuse as a young child, from the age of 6 to 10.”

He also apologized to his family and to people he had worked with in his role as a state lawmaker.

“I don’t pray for forgiveness from the consequences, but I do pray for forgiveness for my acts,” he said.

But a woman who said Farnham had abused her decades ago, when she was a child, was not in a forgiving mood when she addressed the court before Farnham was sentenced.

“My life has been permanently altered by what he did to me — it doesn’t ever go away,” she said, adding that she had spent her life in and out of jail and had been profoundly damaged as a result of Farnham’s abuse.

She asked the judge to “give him every second — he’s earned this prison sentence. I want you to give him it all.”

Farnham’s lawyer, Terry Ekl, called the woman a “flat-out liar.”

But Chang said he found her allegation to be credible — noting that she’d first made it before Farnham was arrested last year, before he’d been publicly accused of trafficking in child porn.

“That’s not a coincidence,” the judge said. “She had no motive to lie.”

Prosecutor Timothy Storino revealed on Thursday that Farnham first came under suspicion in 2004 when his email account was used to join an online pedophile ring. But authorities at that time found no evidence on Farnham’s computers that he had actually obtained any child porn, and it wasn’t until the raid on his home and office a decade later, last year, that he was charged.

Farnham’s sentence — which included a $30,000 fine — was above the legal minimum of five years that Storino had requested, though Ekl said the length of the sentence was “meaningless” given Farnham’s imminent death.

Farnham remains under house arrest until May 19, when he must surrender to the Bureau of Prisons, Chang said.

The BOP has until then to find him a prison that can provide him with the hospice care he needs.