Today after 4 days of deliberation a jury found Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter (a.k.a. Clark Rockefeller) guilty of parental kidnapping and assault with a deadly weapon. The jury foreman read a statement saying that this was a complicated case and that they “considered ALL the testimony” including that provided by a psychiatrist and psychologist who testified that Gerhartsreiter/Rockefeller was “insane” at the time of the kidnapping and assault. The jury apparently found the Harvard Psychiatrist, Charles Chu to be more credible than the defense experts. The judge, after making a statement sentenced Gerhartsreiter/Rockefeller to 5 years in prison.
I was happy the jury considered ALL the evidence and came to a just verdict. I followed this case in order to observe the way jurors, lawyers, judges and news commentators think about psychopathy/sociopathy, con artists and the issue of insanity. As some of you may know, before the name “psychopathy” was invented this condition was known as “moral insanity.” This case also raises the question of what to do when one of the child’s parents is a psychopathic con artist.
Sadly, although I believe the jury verdict was correct, statements by Judge, Frank Gaziano indicate he is still confused with regard to the person Gerhartsreiter/Rockefeller. It is disappointing to me that even after he also heard ALL the testimony and saw ALL the facts, that Judge Gaziano still does not understand what a psychopath/sociopath really is. Those of us who hope to educate society about psychopaths/sociopaths are truly fighting an uphill battle.
Why do I believe Judge Gaziano does not understand what happened here? Because, at the sentencing the Judge made several contradictory statements. He began his discussion of the sentence by saying that he believed that Gerhartsreiter/Rockefeller had been a good father who loved and cared for his daughter. He indicated that this “love” motivated the crime.
Minutes before that assertion by the Judge, prosecuting attorney David Deakin said in court, “When (FBI) Investigators asked the defendant about his long term plans about what would happen when Reigh (the child) asked about her mother, his answer was ‘she wouldn’t have’; and according to the defendant, this was because ‘we never discussed her mother’. ”Deakin concluded, “The defendant’s apparent utter lack of empathy and concern for the impact of his actions, not only on obviously Mr. Yaffe (who was injured in the kidnapping), but upon Reigh and her mother, in the Commonwealth’s mind, justifies essentially the maximum sentence.”
The Judge, along with the jury also watched a video tape of the FBI interview mentioned by Deakin. In the interview, Gerhartsreiter/Rockefeller said regarding Sandra Boss, “I absolutely love her; I wish she hadn’t walked out on me.” He said of his fathering, “I don’t like to cause problems, I just want to be a father. I just want to be with her, I want to get her up in the morning, send her off to school, walk her to the bus, wait when she comes back and give her something to eat at night and put her back to bed then the same again.”
The defendant also claimed that following the kidnapping, he and the child had “6 glorious days together.” Never mind that this “father of the year“ left a 7 year old little girl alone in the unfamiliar apartment for hours prior to his arrest.
Sandra Boss also gave us a glimpse of what it is like to be “loved” by a psychopathic con artist. She described in court how he became controlling of her and the finances, kept her from her daughter, threatened her and made life in the home unbearable by trying to limit her access to food and heat.
Now back to Judge Gaziano because I think you may now see the point I am trying to make here. After Gaziano proclaimed the “love” of this father for his child, he said the following, “The defendant displayed no regard for the rule of law. He thought he would be able to out maneuver Sandra Boss by taking her money and then at the right time taking his daughter.” (well, yeah) The Judge also acknowledged that the child was herself injured in the kidnapping, and traumatized.
I have a word of advice for Judge Gaziano and all of us for this upcoming Father’s Day. Let’s all consider deeply what fatherly love is all about. A father who loves is not capable of the actions of this defendant.
Many of those involved here did what psychopaths try to get us to do. Psychopaths try to get us to view and their actions in a piece meal fashion. They want us to judge them by the pieces in isolation. So he took his daughter to school events, that means he loved her. The kidnapping and the treatment of his wife are separate issues. You know he said he loves Sandra too, so that also must be true. If you just look at one part of his behavior, you can almost buy into the loving father con. To see through a con you have to look at the bigger picture. You have to do what the jury did- consider ALL of the evidence.
Stop looking at the psychopath as a puzzle with a lot of different pieces. Look at the whole, it is much greater than the sum of the parts. No thinking person, looking at the whole here would conclude that Gerhartsreiter/Rockefeller is capable of anything resembling love.
Remember the words of Hervey Cleckley, “In a sense, it is absurd to maintain that the psychopath’s incapacity for… love is absolute, that is, to say he is (in)capable of affection for another … He is plainly capable of casual fondness, of likes and dislikes, and of reactions that, one might say, cause others to matter to him. These affective reactions are, however, always strictly limited in degree. In durability they also vary greatly from what is normal in mankind. The term absolute is, I believe, appropriate if we apply it to any affective attitude strong and meaningful enough to be called love, that is, anything that prevails in sufficient degree and over sufficient periods to exert a major influence on behavior.”
To adequately understand and cope with the behavior of psychopaths, we have to keep in mind what we mean when we say love. Love is about affection and warmth (some psychopaths do enjoy the affectionate attention of others), but it is also about putting the needs of the loved one first. It is about caring behavior. Love depends on the presence of empathy so as to understand that the loved one is a human being with rights and a need for autonomy. Love means another’s rights and freedom are as important as one’s own.
Thankfully this story did have a happy ending. In the words of Brad Puffer, Anchor, NECN, after considering ALL the evidence, “In the end the jury ruled he was a con man.”