Shortly before midnight on August 16, 1996, 25-year-old William Farnbaugh was seen arguing with his 27-year-old girlfriend outside of the Karl Reef bar in New Port Richey, Florida. When the woman tried to get into a taxi, Farnbaugh grabbed her, dragged her to a car and drove off.
Witnesses called and reported the license plate number to the police, who learned the car was registered to the woman. They went to her apartment at 6 a.m. the following morning but left when no one answered the door. Police returned at 8 a.m. with the girl’s mother, who had a key. Inside, police found the woman and Farnbaugh lying on a couch together.
The woman told police that after leaving the bar, Farnbaugh stopped for cigarettes and then drove to a field. There, she said, Farnbaugh dragged her out of the car and said he was going to kill her and bury her. She said he forced her to engage in oral sex, but she bit his penis and tried to run away. Farnbaugh caught her and beat her about the head and face.
She said Farnbaugh carried her to the car and drove her to an unknown residence. There, he put her on a couch while he got something to eat and then took her home, where he lay down beside her on the sofa.
The woman was treated for cuts and bruises and a broken eye socket.
Farnbaugh was arrested and charged with sexual assault, kidnapping and assault. He went on trial in Pasco County Circuit Court in June 1997. The victim gave the same description of the night that she had given to police. She told the jury she agreed to have oral sex with Farnbaugh because she was scared and wanted to buy time.
Farnbaugh’s defense attorney attempted to show, through cross-examination of the woman, that she had suggested they engage in oral sex and that both were so intoxicated that when she bit him, he over-reacted and struck her. Farnbaugh did not testify.
Farnbaugh’s lawyer presented jail medical records showing that Farnbaugh had bite marks on his penis. The prosecution substantially discredited the medical records by eliciting testimony from a jail official that the phrase “bite marks” in the report could have referred to a single bite rather than multiple bites. The prosecution argued that the report's conclusion that the marks were caused by biting might have been based solely on Farnbaugh’s statements to the examining nurse rather than a medical opinion that the marks were caused by biting.
The jury convicted Farnbaugh of all charges on June 9, 1997 and he was sentenced to life in prison.
In June 2002, Farnbaugh was granted a new trial after the Second District Florida Court of Appeals ruled that his trial attorney had provided an inadequate legal defense by failing to call a nurse who examined Farnbaugh when he was booked into the jail after his arrest. The appeals court concluded that the jail records “were not an adequate substitute for the nurse's testimony in this case in light of their apparent lack of specificity and the State's ability to discredit them.”
The appeals court also found that Farnbaugh’s attorney had improperly threatened to withdraw if Farnbaugh testified in his own defense. Farnbaugh was released on bond pending a second trial.
Farnbaugh went on trial again in August 2003. By then, he was back in custody after being arrested in April 2003 on charges of robbing the Main Street Food Mart across from New Port Richey City Hall.
The victim again testified to being forced into the car, forced to engage in oral sex and beaten.
Farnbaugh’s new attorney, Larry Hoffman, called the jail intake nurse, who testified that Farnbaugh had three distinct bite marks on his penis. Farnbaugh also testified in his own defense and told the jury that he and his girlfriend had been attending Alcoholics Anonymous sessions to combat their heavy drinking. On the night of the incident, he said, they went to the bar to celebrate several weeks of sobriety.
After a night of heavy drinking, they quarreled when the woman thought he was flirting with a waitress. As a result, the woman decided to take a taxi home, but he refused to let her take the taxi and instead insisted of driving her home, Farnbaugh said. He said he put her into the back seat of the car because she was drunk.
Farnbaugh said that after stopping at a convenience store to buy cigarettes, he decided to drive to his brother’s house and on the way, they apologized to each other. After the apologies, they pulled over to have oral sex in the back seat and when she bit him and he reacted. “I didn’t mean to hurt her,” Farnbaugh told the jury. “I just wanted her off me.”
On August 13, 2004, the jury acquitted Farnbaugh. He later pleaded guilty to the robbery charge and was sentenced to five years in prison. He also sued the attorney at his first trial and settled the lawsuit for $50,000.
– Maurice Possley