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Farrell likely to lose law license over lies

Published: Tuesday, June 3, 2014 6:46 p.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, June 3, 2014 6:53 p.m. CST
(Beck Diefenbach)
Beck Diefenbach - John Ferrell, at the DeKalb County Courthouse in Sycamore, Ill., on Tuesday June 9, 2009.

The former DeKalb County State's Attorney accused of forging his wife's death certificate and several other falsehoods will have his law license suspended for three years, if the Illinois Supreme Court takes an ethics board's suggestion.

The hearing board for the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission suggested that John E. Farrell, 63, be required to petition for his law license to be reinstated after serving a three-year suspension, records show. Farrell did not show up for an ethics complaint hearing May 6, so the three-member hearing board filed its suggested punishment Tuesday without him presenting a defense.

Farrell has until June 24 to appeal the matter, said James Grogan, a spokesman for the disciplinary commission.

Farrell, a Democrat, was appointed DeKalb County’s State’s Attorney in June 2009 after his predecessor, Ron Matekaitis, became a judge. After Clay Campbell was elected state’s attorney in November 2010, Campbell put Farrell in charge of his office’s civil division.

The hearing board found that Farrell fabricated his wife’s death certificate and lied about caring for an ailing sister in Iowa while the commission was investigating him, records show. They found that he offered to settle litigation on behalf of the county without consulting county officials, and gave fake updates to county officials about an eminent domain case that he never filed.

In addition, the board found Farrell had lied to ethics investigators about his own illness. When investigators asked him to appear at their Chicago office on Sept. 11, he responded with a letter claiming he needed emergency surgery in Iowa City while helping his daughter move back to college.

“I became seriously ill while there and was admitted to University Hospitals in Iowa City, where I underwent emergency stomach/colon surgery and was diagnosed with advanced stage cancer,” Farrell wrote, according to commission records. “I was released from the hospital on Sept. 5, but I am too weak to travel back to Chicago and must undergo follow-up exams and chemotherapy for the next 30 to 60 days.”

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