crimesider

Defense Team Opens On 'Crockefeller' Insanity Defense

(AP Photo/Essdras Suarez)

"Clark Rockefeller" during his arraignment at a Boston municipal court, Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2008.

BOSTON (AP) The man who calls himself Clark Rockefeller has delusional and narcissistic personality disorders that impair his judgment, a psychologist hired by the defense in his kidnapping trial told a judge Wednesday.

Forensic psychologist Catherine Howe's testimony offered a glimpse into what the insanity defense will look like at the trial, which begins with opening statements Thursday.

Howe said she spent 16 hours interviewing the defendant after his arrest and diagnosed him with the two mental illnesses. Together, the illnesses mean he has delusions of inflated worth and power, a sense of entitlement and a lack of empathy, Howe said.

"His judgment is impaired by this belief system," she said.

Her testimony came during a hearing on a motion by defense lawyers, who are trying to keep prosecutors from using statements he made to police and in an interview he gave to The Boston Globe after his arrest. The jury was not present for the arguments.

Rockefeller's real name is Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter. Prosecutors say he is a German man who has used multiple aliases -including the family name of the famous oil baron- to ingratiate himself into wealthy circles in New York, Los Angeles and Boston.

He is accused of snatching his 7-year-old daughter, Reigh, in Boston in July after losing custody of the girl to his ex-wife. Authorities say he shoved a social worker to the ground during a supervised visit, then hustled his daughter into a waiting car and fled. They were both found in Baltimore six days later, the girl unharmed.

Gerhartsreiter's lawyers argued that his statements to police and his interview with the Globe could not have been made voluntarily, because of the mental illnesses. Howe said that his disorders made it impossible for him to turn down a request to be interviewed and to stop himself from talking to police. "This is a gentleman who does not stop talking," she said.

Assistant District Attorney David Deakin rebutted her diagnoses by reviewing all the truthful statements Gerhartsreiter made to police and to the Globe, including details about his daughter, his wife's job, his divorce agreement and the fact that his wife was the sole wage earner in their family. "Not a delusion, right?" Deakin repeated, each time Howe confirmed that he made truthful statements during the interviews.

Judge Frank Gaziano did not immediately rule on whether the jury will be allowed to hear the statements and a tape of the Globe interview. He said he will hear testimony from a defense expert Thursday before issuing his decision.

Earlier Wednesday, the judge ruled that prosecutors cannot play a 911 call made by the social worker. But the judge said the social worker, Howard Yaffe, will be allowed to testify about a statement he made to a private investigator who had been hired to observe the father-daughter visit.

"He's got her! He took her. He took her," Yaffe said, according to Deakin.

During the trial, the defense is also expected to call Dr. Keith Ablow, a forensic psychiatrist who has written several fictional books and appeared on numerous television shows.

Gerhartsreiter's lawyers wanted to keep prosecutors from questioning Ablow about comments he made about the case on the radio and in a blog posting before he was hired by the defense. The judge ruled prosecutors can ask Ablow about the comments.

On Aug. 13, 11 days after Gerhartsreiter was arrested, Ablow wrote on a Fox News health blog that he "isn't much of a psychological mystery."

"No regard for the truth. No regard for the law. No concern for a mother's panic when her daughter is kidnapped," Ablow wrote. "No ability to consider that his daughter would be forever psychologically traumatized by a sudden, permanent separation from her mother."
  • Ryan Smith

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