The man who called himself Clark Rockefeller – but whose real name is Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter – lost a bid to get out of prison when a Suffolk Superior Court judge ruled the con man got a fair trial when convicted for kidnapping his own daughter from a Boston street in 2008.
According to Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley's office, which prosecuted Rockefeller, Judge Frank Gaziano denied a request by defense attorneys to order a new trial for Rockefeller.
Rockefeller was convicted of kidnapping his then-7-year-old daughter, and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon for ordering a driver to speed off while the girl's social worker clung to the door during a custodial visit July 27, 2008.
At trial, Rockefeller's defense team argued he was mentally ill and used as evidence the many aliases and personas he created since arriving in the US from Germany in the late 1970s.
Prosecutor David Deakin responded by calling Dr. James A. Chu, a clinical psychiatrist at McLean Hospital and associate professor at Harvard Medical School, who testified he found "very clear evidence … of exaggeration of symptoms" by Rockefeller.
Gaziano said the 49-year-old native of Bavaria, who is currently serving a four- to-five-year prison term and is the subject of cable television movie, got a fair trial.
"I do not find that any of the alleged errors, concerning the prosecutor’s use of a rhetorical flourish and Dr. Chu’s qualifications to testify as an expert witness, warrant a new trial,'' Gaziano wrote in a brief, three-sentence ruling.
"In addition, the evidence was sufficient, viewed in a light most favorable to the Commonwealth, to support the assault and battery with a dangerous weapon conviction,'' Gaziano wrote in an order dated Feb. 25, but which was publicly circulated today.
Rockefeller's lead defense lawyer, Jeffrey A. Denner, said he had expected Gaziano would reject the request to set aside the verdict; the motion had challenged rulings by Gaziano that allowed the jury to hear certain evidence and arguments by the prosecutor.
"It's not unexpected he would disagree with us," he said of Gaziano. "That's why they have appeals courts."
He said one of the other lawyers for the defense, Timothy J. Bradl, is working on the challenge to be filed with the state Appeals Court.
In a telephone interview, Conley said the defense request was a standard part of criminal appeals, and he expects further court battles over Rockefeller's conviction.
"This was the first step,'' Conley said. "We were very confident we would prevail.''
Conley also said he was in the court when trial prosecutor Deakin made his closing argument, one that defense attorneys claimed unfairly inflamed jurors against Rockefeller by highlighting his bizarre personal history of using fake identities for long periods of time.
"David Deakin's closing argument was based on the evidence,'' Conley said. "This was a defendant who did deceive, who did manipulate almost everyone he met. It was entirely proper and effective.''
Conley also noted that Rockefeller's defense attorneys cross-examined Chu, the mental health expert, at length during the trial, giving them the chance at that time to convince jurors the doctor's testimony was flawed.
"It was up to the jury to evaluate Chu,'' Conley said.
Rockefeller is currently serving a four-to-five-year state prison sentence at the North Central Correctional Institute in Gardner, according to the DOC website.
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