SYCAMORE – The testimony of two sisters who were sexually abused by a man living at their grandmother’s house in 2015 will be allowed at his trial, which could begin in August.
Brennan J. Farris, who has been held in the DeKalb County Jail on $5 million bond for about two and a half years, faces 17 counts of criminal sexual abuse of a child. He could be sentenced to six to 30 years in prison. He could face life in prison, however, if he is found guilty on all charges.
Lawyers on both sides have filed motions leading up to the trial, which has a final setting Aug. 2 before it gets underway Aug. 7. The trial originally was set for Dec. 7, 2017, before a motion was filed by Farris’ lawyer, Bob Motta, asking that the charges be severed, meaning the sisters’ and others’ testimony be heard in two separate cases.
Subsequently, Assistant State’s Attorney Alicia Caplan filed a motion that the sisters’ testimony be allowed in both cases.
Caplan told Chief Judge Robbin Stuckert on Tuesday that both girls were abused at their grandmother’s house, where Farris was living, when they were about 5 years old, and that both came forward in the summer of 2015, when charged were filed.
Motta said the motion was more or less a rebuttal of his motion.
“Essentially, this is the same thing, as if we hadn’t severed the charges,” Motta said.
He argued that one of the sisters, who first made allegations at age 11, the age at which she said Farris had inappropriately touched her last, waited seven years to speak out.
“She can’t remember any dates,” Motta said. “She says it happened recently, but that most of it happened when she was a kid. That’s problematic. … This child had no idea when it happened, at least from what I’ve been able to see.”
Court records show that the elder sister said Farris touched her more than 10 but fewer than 50 times.
Police were notified of the report of abuse in July 2015, and began gathering information from relatives and the two alleged victims, DeKalb police Cmdr. Bob Redel said at the time.
Both children were related to Farris and younger than 13 years old. The allegations first were reported when one of the children told a relative.
Caplan argued that comparable court cases allowed testimony from multiple victims to be heard, despite far larger gaps in time.
Stuckert ruled that both victims’ testimonies be allowed when the case goes to trial.
Stuckert also asked that the lawyers file any motions by June 26.
Caplan said the county has between 25 and 30 active abuse cases involving children, and that the county foots the bill to fly back an expert to testify in several of those cases this week.
A children’s advocate, Donna Moulton, was available Tuesday morning and first will fly back to Arizona on Wednesday. She was flown in to testify in several cases in which she interviewed children who told of being abused.
Moulton is the director of Childhelp Children’s Center, based in Phoenix, and said she had interviewed the alleged victims of Farris, Joe Hannon – the former Engergym instructor who had a hearing Tuesday morning – Carlos Botello and Jeremy Westbrook, all of whom are charged with predatory criminal sex abuse or assault of a child.
Moulton said she is a neutral fact-finder.
“I see that bigger picture, and I understand the importance of getting that child’s story out in a neutral way,” she said before Hannon’s hearing Tuesday.