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May 15, 2008

Neurologist Farris released from jail

A federal district court judge has released Pitt neurology professor Roger Wesley Farris from jail, where he had been held since his March 5 arrest in a sex sting.

He has been charged with arranging to meet a child for sex via phone calls with an undercover agent posing as the uncle of a 10-year-old girl.

Farris, 38, was arrested outside the Quality Inn University Center, where, according to the federal court complaint, he had arranged for the “uncle” to bring the child to meet him for sex in exchange for $750. In reality, there was no girl.

Farris, who oversaw research on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia at Pitt and was a visiting professor in neurology at Harvard Medical School, pleaded not guilty April 8 to charges of coercion and enticement of a minor to engage in prostitution or other illegal sexual activity.

Pitt Associate Director of News John Fedele told the University Times Wednesday that Farris is on leave from his employment at the University.

U.S. District Judge David S. Cercone ordered that Farris, who has no prior record, be released to the custody of his parents and that he undergo mental health treatment.

The judge ordered that Farris be placed on electronic monitoring and be restricted to his parents’ home in Virginia except for pre-approved travel for consultation with his attorney, medical treatment and prearranged visits with his wife and children.

He is to have no unsupervised contact with children, including his own three children.

In his opinion on the release, Cercone stated, “The court has received a significant number of letters from his colleagues at the University [of Pittsburgh] School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School, family friends and neighbors, and family members.

“Common themes highlighting defendant’s compassion, altruism, dedication to work and family and expressing a willingness to provide defendant and his family with whatever emotional support that can be provided abound.

“These letters speak volumes about defendant’s character and his past behavior. They likewise clearly attest to the authors’ belief in defendant’s ability to overcome the afflictions underlying his recent behavior through therapy and treatment.

“Thus, defendant has put forth persuasive information that sufficiently attests to his good character, employment, family and community ties, which information weighs in favor of defendant’s release.”

Last month Farris’s attorney, Paul D. Boas, requested that the deadline for pretrial motions be extended until Aug. 20. Judge Cercone granted that request April 22.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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