The back cover of Whores of the Court: The fraud of psychiatric testimony and the rape of American Justice by Margaret Hagen, Ph.D. has a picture of a graphic that says, “Expert Psychological Opinions For Sale.” In her book, Hagen is justifiably critical of psychologists and psychiatrists who function as “hired guns” in the court room. These hired guns, in collaboration with unethical attorneys often do the dirty work of psychopaths and make it difficult for victims to get justice.
Both the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association have issued strong statements about the ethics of acting as a “hired gun.” Such conduct is not considered ethical.
The American Psychiatric Association says, “When psychiatrists function as experts within the legal process, they should adhere to the principle of honesty and should strive for objectivity. Although they may be retained by one party to a civil or criminal matter, psychiatrists should adhere to these principles when conducting evaluations, applying clinical data to legal criteria, and expressing opinions…The adversarial nature of most legal processes presents special hazards for the practice of forensic psychiatry. Being retained by one side in a civil or criminal matter exposes psychiatrists to the potential for unintended bias and the danger of distortion of their opinion. It is the responsibility of psychiatrists to minimize such hazards by acting in an honest manner and striving to reach an objective opinion.”
The American Psychological Association says, “Psychologists seek to promote accuracy, honesty, and truthfulness in the science, teaching, and practice of psychology. In these activities psychologists do not engage in fraud, subterfuge, or intentional misrepresentation of fact.”
This week Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter a German national illegally in the United States went on trial for the kidnapping of his daughter and the resultant injury to the social worker entrusted with her safety. To summarize the case, Gerhartsreiter came to the US during high school in the late 1980s and never repatriated. He lived for a time in California and the people he lived with are now presumed dead/murdered. A car belonging to them was allegedly brought to CT by Gerhartstreiter who also allegedly engaged in marriage fraud to obtain a green card.
Gerhartstreiter assumed the identity of “Clark Rockefeller” and used this identity to con a beautiful and brilliant Harvard MBA by the name of Sandra Boss into marriage. According to testimony given by Sandra, she believed him to be a member of the Rockefeller family and did not come to understand the extent of his lies until 2006. During the marriage he was controlling, abusive and intimidating of Sandra but presented himself as intelligent, charming, and an excellent father to the outside world. Sandra hired a private investigator who helped her uncover the fraud, but they were never able to determine the true identity of her husband. His identity was not revealed until after the kidnapping arrest when finger prints established “Clark Rockefeller” was actually Gerhartstreiter.
Because “Clark Rockefeller” was unwilling to reveal his identity and Boss established there was no such person, the court did not look upon him favorably during the divorce proceeding. When they finally divorced, Sandra’s daughter was 7 and luckily Sandra obtained full custody with Gerhartstreiter granted 3 supervised visits with his daughter a year. It was during the first of these visits that Gerhartstreiter kidnapped the girl and injured the supervising social worker.
Since Gerhartstreiter was caught with the child, his only defense was to plead insanity. Using part of the $800,000.00 obtained from Sandra Boss in the divorce settlement, Gerhartstreiter’s defense team retained, a psychologist, Catherine Howe, and a psychiatrist, Keith Ablow to help bolster claims that Gerhartstreiter was legally insane at the time he kidnapped the girl.
Insanity is a legal concept not a psychological one. It simply means a defendant is not responsible for criminal conduct where (s)he, as a result of mental disease or defect, did not possess “substantial capacity either to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law.”
It was up to Howe and Ablow then to diagnose Gerhartsreiter and to testify that he lacked the substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the law. The second part of their job was made easier by the fact that in Massachusetts where the case is being tried, it is up to the prosecution to prove the absence of insanity in a mentally ill person.
To summarize then, Ablow and Howe diagnose a mental problem then the State has to prove he is not insane. OK what is the diagnosis of someone who is a grandiose and manipulative, parasitic, pathological liar, without empathy or remorse, who cons for profit or pleasure? Could it be that Howe and Ablow, two forensic specialists, have never heard of psychopathy?
A search of Amazon.com reveals that Ablow has written a book entitled “Psychopath.” I don’t know about Howe’s knowledge of the disorder. OH but lucky them, psychopathy is not an official psychiatric diagnosis so although nearly every forensic specialist accepts that it exists, it is not “official.” (The term psychopathy is listed in the DSM as a synonym for antisocial personality disorder.) Imagine if Ablow and Howe had to tell their employers and the jury that their client, Gerhartsreiter is actually a psychopath who cons, uses and abuses the people in his life without remorse. I don’t think the diagnosis psychopath would engender juror sympathy for a kidnapper or help to bolster the claim of insanity.
Since psychopathy is not an official diagnosis, Ablow and Howe had to fit their client into some DSM category. The DSM makes clear that this category is ASPD or antisocial personality disorder. But for Howe and Ablow, optimally the diagnosis should be one that engenders sympathy and makes their client look crazy. Clever them, they came up with “delusional disorder.” Their assertion is that at the time of the kidnapping Gerhartsreiter was suffering from delusions that he was indeed “Clark Rockefeller” heir to the Rockefeller fortune.
I have one question for the experts here, if the defendant thought he was the wealthy, brilliant and talented heir to the Rockefeller fortune why did he have to kidnap his daughter? Where is the delusional explanation of the kidnapping? A delusional person most likely would have just walked away with her believing himself to be entitled. No elaborate kidnapping plot needed. No discussion of any delusional thinking regarding the actual crime was mentioned in court.
Problem number 2 (pardon the pun) with “delusional disorder” is that the defendant fabricated so many lies that to call them all “delusional disorder” just doesn’t fit. As the prosecution expert witness psychiatrist James A. Chu explained, people with delusional disorder have one well circumscribed delusion in the context of a life that is otherwise functional. Outside of that one delusion they seem normal. I just do not buy that either Ablow or Howe really believe that Gerhartsreiter has delusional disorder.
Howe and Ablow also say Gerhartsreiter has narcissistic personality, the problem there is that many criteria for antisocial personality are also found in Gerhartsreiter. They were ethically obligated to discuss these criteria. It seems that NPD is increasingly being used as a synonym for psychopathy. An interest in the truth would also dictate that it be known that antisocial behavior of the degree represented here is not part of NPD. Deception and other antisocial behavior are part of antisocial personality disorder, and psychopathy is basically ASPD in a narcissist.
See the Table below for the criteria for antisocial personality disorder and psychopathy. Notice that “Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases or conning others for personal profit or pleasure,” is a criteria for ASPD.When I was on the surgical rotation as a third year med student, the senior resident asked us all, “What has four wings and flies?” The correct answer to this question is “two birds.” The moral is, look for the simplest, least exotic explanation for your findings. It is simple to say that Gerhartsreiter meets criteria for ASPD and has many psychopathic personality traits. No need to invent some unusual combination of rare disorders here. Both delusional disorder and narcissistic personality disorder are listed as rare in the DSM.
As a result of this case, I now believe it is imperative that the American Psychiatric Association formally recognize both psychopathy as a diagnosis and the parasitic, conning lifestyles adopted by many psychopaths. The effect of a disorder on a person’s lifestyle is described for other disorders. In terms of psychopathy, the symptoms and lifestyle of this defendant are not unusual, just ask forensic expert Donna Andersen or visit True Lovefraud Stories!
In his testimony, Keith Ablow was a true crusader for the defense. During cross examination Thursday, Ablow thought it necessary to continue the abuse of Sandra Boss (the victim) that had already been started by the defense earlier in the week. Ablow had the audacity to suggest that the matter was the responsibility of Sandra who failed to obtain the proper treatment for her poor delusional husband. If the defendant had only had a spouse who could have recognized he was ill then everything would have been OK and he would have been a loving, contributing family member.
The suggestion that Sandra had any responsibility here is especially outrageous since both NPD and delusional disorder are just as refractory to treatment as ASPD/psychopathy.
In my opinion, it is the legal system in collaboration with psychologists and psychiatrists like Howe and Ablow who enable psychopaths like Gerhartsreiter to avoid treatment. The optimal outcome for everyone involved here will result from the conclusion that Gerhartsreiter and his behavior are classic for psychopathy. Psychopaths are considered responsible for their actions and are not insane. The many identities they assume are volitional and serve a purpose- they are part of their parasitic and predatory behavior toward others.
In “The Manipulative Personality” a 1972 article in the Archives of General Psychiatry, the author Ben Bursten says this about sociopaths, “Without deception he could influence someone but he would not have the feeling that he put something over on the other person… Some workers have felt that the deceptiveness of the sociopath represents a defect in reality testing wherein the individual is not aware of what is true and what is not when he lies. On the contrary, I believe that but for perhaps fleeting moments of unbridled enthusiasm for the lie, the sociopath knows very well that he is deceiving. Indeed such knowledge is an important part of the sense of putting something over on the other person. It is not a defect in reality testing which enables the manipulator to lie so easily. Rather it is that the telling of truth has such a low position on his hierarchy of values.”
For me, the mental picture of Gerhartsreiter getting a charge out of having put one over on Howe and Ablow, is rather comical. This entire situation that has been engineered and created by a master manipulator is quite ironic. Perhaps Ablow and Howe have more in common with Sandra Boss than they realize!
Are Howe and Ablow hired guns? Are they unethical? Are they too just the victims of psychopathic manipulation? To quote another of Ablow’s employers, at Lovefraud.com, “We report, you decide.”