Fake Rockefeller found guilty of kidnap

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The Independent US

A German man who posed as a member of America's wealthy Rockefeller family was convicted by a jury today of kidnapping his young daughter in Boston last year following a bitter divorce.

Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, who used a number of aliases including Clark Rockefeller, also was found guilty of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon as jurors rejected defense arguments that the 48-year-old defendant was insane.

Dressed in a white shirt, blue blazer and red tie, Gerhartsreiter stared grim-faced as the verdict was read in court. He is due to be sentenced later.

The kidnapping charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison while the assault and battery charge carries a maximum 10-year sentence.

The Suffolk County District Attorney, Dan Conley, said he was satisfied with the verdict in which jurors convicted Gerhartsreiter on the two most serious charges. The jurors, who had deliberated since Monday, acquitted him of giving police a false name and a second charge of assault and battery.

Gerhartsreiter grabbed his seven-year-old daughter on his first visit with the girl in July 2008 after a contentious divorce, pushed aside the supervising social worker, and sped off as the social worker held onto the moving sport utility vehicle.

After a six-day international manhunt, police found Gerhartsreiter and his daughter, Reigh, in Baltimore where the man told authorities he had hoped to begin a new life.

Authorities said Gerhartsreiter, who left Bavaria in the 1970s, posed as a member of the famous Rockefeller family, whose fortune came from the oil business and other ventures.

During the trial, Gerhartsreiter's former wife, Sandra Boss, described how he fooled her into believing tales about his ancestry, professional achievements and billion-dollar art collection. Boss is an international business consultant and a graduate of Harvard Business School.

Defense lawyers argued that the blond, bespectacled German suffered from a worsening mental illness when he snatched his daughter. Defense lawyers said Gerhartsreiter believed the girl was secretly signaling him to rescue her.

Prosecutor David Deakin referred to the argument as "preposterous," saying there was no evidence Gerhartsreiter had been hospitalized for mental illness.

Authorities say Gerhartsreiter lived for 27 years as a con man, using at least four aliases. He also is being investigated in the deaths of a California couple who disappeared in 1985.