Manipulation of the legal system as an instrument of abuse is not illegal. It’s not unethical. But, I think most folks believe it should be.
Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter (“Clark Rockefeller”) is on trial for kidnapping his daughter Reigh (“Snooks”) during his first supervised visit with her in July, 2008. He’s also charged with assault on Howard Yaffe, the social worker who was assigned to supervise the visit and with giving police a false name. His attorney Jeffrey Denner claims Christian is not guilty by reason of insanity caused by the “perfect storm” of his divorce.
Prosecutor David Deakin, however, argues, “this is not a case about insantiy, it’s a case about control. . .manipulation.” The case has been turned over to the jury which will begin deliberations tomorrow. The jury’s foreperson is a Harvard law professor.
Christian has been called a world-class con artist. He’s got more aliases than most women have shoes. Let’s take a look at the history of this case.
Reigh “Snooks” Storrow Mills Boss was born On May 24, 2001. Her father didn’t show up until 18 hours after her birth.
After Sandra hired a private detective and started doing due diligence into his true identity, this “loving and devoted” father surrendered custody in exchange for $800,000, a dress, and her engagement ring. After the divorce, he didn’t initiate contact with his daughter or respond to her e-mail or phone messages for six months.
In the meantime, prosecutors charge that he made elaborate plans to kidnap Snooks. They introduced evidence that he suggested in December 2007 to investment portfolio manager Mason Peltz that he might kidnap his daughter. For $2,000, he hired limo driver Darrell Hopkins to help him ditch Howard Yaffe, the social worker who supervised their first visit. Yaffe was injured in the escape. Christian called the social worker “Harold” and intimated he was a “clingy” and “dangerous” man. Until Hopkins heard the Amber alert, he didn’t realize he’d been conned into driving the getaway car. Christian hired the right guy for the job because Hopkins also ditched the private investigator Sandra had hired to follow Christian during the visit.
Claiming that Snooks needed medical attention, Christian asked Hopkins to drop them off at the hospital. Another unsuspecting getaway driver was waiting for them. She drove them to New York City and learned of the Amber alert minutes after Christian and Snooks got out of her car.
Christian converted his divorce settlement into gold ~ the perfect currency to escape without a trace. He bought a house in Baltimore under the name of Chip Smith using cashier’s checks and docked his 26′ catamaran at the marina.
For five days, 20 FBI officers and a Boston Police task force couldn’t find Christian and Snooks. He was finally caught when the real estate agent who had sold him the house responded to the Amber alert and called the FBI.
Delusional or Master Manipulator?
Several defense experts testified that Christian is delusional. They also claim he has a narcissistic personality disorder which is typical of abusive people. The prosecution asserts he is a master manipulator.
CNN has opined Sandra has been “excoriated in the media.”Vanity Fair detailed Christian’s plots to “interview every high-powered attorney in Boston so that Sandra wouldn’t be able to hire any of them, because of conflict-of-interest restricitons.” John Greene was quoted, “I think the moment he took the money [the $800,000 divorce settlement] he started planning on how to get his daughter back.”
If the jury is savvy on issues of abusive, controlling behavior, defense attorney Jeffrey Denner’s blistering cross-examination of Sandra may backfire.
This is a kidnapping case. The only issues that are relevant are whether Christian kidnapped his daughter and whether he meets the threshold for an insanity defense. Yet, the defense put Sandra on trial asking personal and accusatory questions. The guise was a challenge to her credibility as a witness. But, this is a sharp practice used to intimidate and humiliate witnesses. It’s litigation abuse. It is designed to punish her personally and professionally.
As a former consultant, I know it is career suicide to air these private details. I was lucky that someone suggested I open my own checking account and have my paychecks deposited directly. Sandra Boss operated at a much higher level of consulting. So, it took her years to figure out how to get back financial control in her marriage. This isn’t easy when you travel constantly to meet client demands.
In his closing arguments, David Deakin characterized Christian as a “self-centered, controlling, manipulative man” who was “angry with his ex-wife for taking control back.” He was a crafty liar who “set the matter right” by snatching his daughter. “It’s not a delusion. It’s all about the money.”
Meanwhile, the state of California wants to talk to Christian about the disappearance and probable murder of a San Marino couple.
Update: On April 10, 2013, a California jury found him guilty of the first-degree murder of John Sohus, his landlord’s son, in 1985.