BY JULIE MANGANIS
---- — SALEM — The mother of a Beverly man convicted of rape in May admitted yesterday that she threatened the victim outside court shortly after the verdict.
Audrey Farmer, 48, pleaded guilty during a hearing yesterday afternoon in Salem Superior Court to a charge of witness intimidation and was sentenced to six months in jail.
A judge called her behavior “an affront to the justice system.”
Prosecutor Kristen Buxton described how, just moments after Farmer’s son, Troy Platt, 27, was found guilty of raping a young woman at gunpoint in a wooded area in Beverly, Farmer confronted the victim and her family as they walked to their car outside the Salem courthouse and told her, “Watch your back.”
Platt, who was arrested after his DNA was found to match evidence collected from the victim’s body, is serving a prison term of 25 years to life.
Buxton urged Judge Howard Whitehead to send Farmer to state prison for two to three years, saying that victims should be able to walk to and from court “free from harm and free from threats.”
“The victim in this case spent years not knowing who her rapist was, and was subjected to years of anxiety and fear, and then she went through the great difficulty of testifying at a trial,” where, she reminded Whitehead, she was “clearly traumatized” by what had happened.
“She was finally free of that burden for the first time in many, many years only to walk out and have this defendant (Farmer) trigger it all over,” the prosecutor said.
The prosecutor also pointed to Farmer’s prior record, including a conviction for stealing credit cards from residents of a Beverly nursing home where she worked as a nursing assistant, cards that were later used by Platt.
Defense lawyer Michael Phelan, who had urged probation for Farmer, said his client, who has six children, was simply a mother who “let her emotions get the best of her” that day.
Whitehead said he took that into consideration when he decided to impose six months.
“I know Ms. Farmer’s son may have told his mother a different story,” said Whitehead, who presided over Platt’s trial in May.
But he shared the prosecutor’s view that the young woman at the center of both cases was twice victimized, once by Platt and then by his mother.
“That’s what makes this case so egregious,” Whitehead said.
And while Farmer may have been simply “lashing out,” the victim and her family had no way of knowing that.
“Witnesses are entitled to protection from this kind of comment,” said the judge, who went on to praise the district attorney’s office for pursuing the case.
“Frankly, these kinds of episodes are happening too frequently in the court system,” Whitehead said.
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.