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Alleged con man could face deportation

US agency files 'detainer' on Gerhartsreiter

A hearing has been set for Tuesday for Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, who calls himself Clark Rockefeller. A hearing has been set for Tuesday for Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, who calls himself Clark Rockefeller.
By Jonathan Saltzman
Globe Staff / January 31, 2009
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Legal troubles for the alleged con man who calls himself Clark Rockefeller continue to mount.

Jeffrey A. Denner, the Boston lawyer for the man authorities say is really Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, a German citizen, said yesterday that federal immigration officials have filed legal papers seeking to turn him over for possible deportation if he is convicted of kidnapping. Removal would take place after he served a sentence.

Gerhartsreiter, his lawyer has said, is considering pleading guilty, as early as Tuesday, to kidnapping his 7-year-old daughter last summer in a case that made international headlines after the discovery that he had allegedly used a string of aliases over three decades in the United States.

Los Angeles authorities have also labeled him "a person of interest" in an investigation into the 1985 disappearance and presumed murder of a California couple, John and Linda Sohus. Gerhartsreiter was living in a guest house on their property in San Marino, a wealthy Los Angeles suburb, when they vanished.

"This is not unexpected," Denner said of the detainer filed by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement against his client about a week ago. "We understand that as far as the government is concerned, his status is clouded. It's not necessarily our position."

Paula Grenier, a spokeswoman for the immigration agency, confirmed that a detainer had been filed at the Suffolk County Jail, where Gerhartsreiter has been held since his arrest in August, but said the matter is under investigation and declined to elaborate.

Gerhartsreiter entered the United States on a student visa in the late 1970s and in 1981 married a woman in Wisconsin whom he later divorced. Immigration authorities said last summer that the marriage allowed him to get permanent legal status in the country.

But Harvey Kaplan, an immigration lawyer in Boston, said that legal residents who are convicted of aggravated felonies, or what the law calls crimes of "moral turpitude," are subject to removal and that kidnapping would probably qualify.

If Gerhartsreiter were charged in the disappearance of the California couple, immigration authorities would most likely wait for that case to play out before pursuing his possible deportation, Kaplan said.

Gerhartsreiter is charged with parental kidnapping, giving a false name to a police officer, and two assault charges. He allegedly snatched his daughter, Reigh Storrow Mills Boss, from a Back Bay street during a supervised visit on July 27.

He was arrested six days later in Baltimore, living under an assumed name. His daughter was reunited with her mother, and they are living in London.

During a Jan. 22 hearing in Suffolk Superior Court, Assistant District Attorney David Deakin told Judge Carol S. Ball in a sidebar conference overheard by reporters that prosecutors would recommend Gerhartsreiter serve four-and-a half to five years in prison, followed by 15 years on probation, if he pleaded guilty to all of the charges.

But Denner said that if his client pleaded guilty, the lawyer could ask for a lesser sentence.

A hearing is scheduled before Ball on Tuesday.

Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at jsaltzman@globe.com.

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