In the end, a jury did not believe his claims that insanity drove him to kidnap her from a Boston street and race to Baltimore to a new house he had bought for them.
Rockefeller, a German national whose real name is Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, was convicted Friday of kidnapping the girl during a July supervised visit. He was sentenced to four-to-five years in state prison.
The jury rejected his defense that he was suffering from a delusional disorder and felt compelled to "save" his daughter, Reigh Boss, after he lost custody of her to his ex-wife, Sandra Boss. Instead, the jury found that he knew that it was criminally and morally wrong to take the girl away from her mother in violation of a custody order.
A Gerhartsreiter defense attorney, Tim Bradl, told Early Show Saturday Edition co-anchor Erica Hill, "As a matter of course, a notice of appeal will get filed and we'll hash through the transcripts and see where it goes."
Gerhartsreiter's lead defense lawyer, Jeffrey Denner, went further, telling Hill, "We're also exploring the possibility of filing a motion for a new trial, on certain grounds."
"It would be probably better not to get into them now," Denner replied, "but suffice it to say that this is probably the first chapter in this case, and not necessarily the last chapter."
Asked whether he was asserting that Gerhartsreiter didn't get a fair trial, Denner responded, "I think, in many ways, he got a very fair trial. I think the judge was incredibly evenhanded and, for the most part, made excellent rulings. I think the prosecutor ... presented a very, very good case. I think that there were a lot of compelling issues that came up.
"But, from time to time, things happen in a trial that, in the clarity of hindsight, perhaps shouldn't have happened. And we are scouring the transcripts for that now, and we'll be making our decisions early next week."
Gerhartsreiter and his daughter were found in Baltimore six days after he snatched her and put her into a waiting SUV with a hired driver. The girl was unharmed and was returned to her mother.
Two mental health experts testifying for the defense said Gerhartsreiter had a long-simmering mental illness that exploded and caused him to have a "psychotic break" after he lost custody in December 2007.
Prosecutors called the diagnosis "preposterous" and said he planned the kidnapping for months because he was angry that his wife had divorced him and moved to London with their daughter.
Gerhartsreiter also was convicted of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon for ordering the SUV's driver to pull away with a social worker clinging to the door. The jury acquitted him on another assault count and on a charge of giving a false name to police.
Gerhartsreiter, 48, looked sober but calm as the verdict was read.
Judge Frank Graziano said he considered Rockefeller's attachment to his daughter and his "despair" over losing her, but also his disregard for the law and lack of empathy for the girl, his ex-wife and the social worker.
"The defendant was by all accounts a loving and devoted father to his daughter," he said. But he said Gerhartsreiter has a "long and well-documented history of deceit" that included an attempt to "outmaneuver" his ex-wife by taking an $800,000 divorce settlement from her and then planning for months to take their daughter.
Denner had asked for a maximum sentence of two years, saying his client was a "mentally disturbed individual who as a father loved his daughter too much" and never intended to hurt her.
In a statement read in court by Assistant District Attorney David Deakin, Boss said she has struggled to find normalcy for her and her daughter.
"The long-term effects of the abduction are yet to be known, but anxiety about Reigh's safety and protection ... will certainly be the most lasting," she said.
Jury foreman Michael Gregory, a Harvard Law School lecturer who specializes in the impact of domestic violence on children's learning, read a statement saying jurors are "confident that our verdict is fair and just and based on the information that we were legally allowed to consider."
After his arrest, authorities revealed that the man with the storied Rockefeller name was really a German national who had used multiple aliases since moving to the United States and was a "person of interest" in the 1985 disappearance and presumed slayings of a newlywed couple from San Marino, Calif.
A California grand jury has been hearing evidence in the disappearance of Linda and Jonathan Sohus. Gerhartsreiter, who was then using the name Christopher Chichester, was living in a guest house on their property when they disappeared. He has not been charged in the case.
Prosecutors asked the judge as part of the sentence to order Gerhartsreiter to undergo psychiatric evaluation, not to profit from his history or crimes and to be on 20 years probation. The judge did not impose those conditions.
The defense said he should not be forced to undergo evaluation while he is a person of interest in the California case and noted that his client faces a federal immigration detention when he completes his Massachusetts sentence.
The kidnapping trial featured incredible details about the many personas Gerhartsreiter, 48, assumed as he worked his way into wealthy circles in Boston, New York and Los Angeles.
He came to the United States in 1978 as a 17-year-old student in Connecticut, and three years later, persuaded a woman in Wisconsin to marry him so he could get a green card.
After that, he told a variety of stories: he was a physicist, a financial adviser who renegotiated debt for small countries, a collector who owned $1 billion worth of modern art, a cardiovascular surgeon from Las Vegas, a ship's captain based in Chile and a member of the Trilateral Commission, a group established to foster cooperation among the United States, Europe and Japan.
Boss, a Harvard-educated management consulting firm executive, testified that she believed her husband's stories for much of their 12-year marriage.
Boss was awarded full custody of their daughter. As part of the agreement, he was allowed to see his daughter three times a year in visits supervised by a social worker. It was during the first visit that he snatched the girl.
Social worker Howard Yaffe testified that Gerhartsreiter pushed him to the ground and hustled his daughter into a waiting SUV, then told the driver to "Go! Go! Go!"
A Baltimore real estate agent testified that Gerhartsreiter contacted her months before the kidnapping and asked for help finding a house for him and his daughter. The week before the kidnapping, he bought one for $450,000. The agent tipped off authorities after seeing his photo on news reports.