Judges reject ‘Rockefeller’ bid for a reduced prison sentence

By John R. Ellement and Martin Finucane
Globe Staff / May 19, 2010

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He has called himself Clark Rockefeller, Chris Chichester, and Chris Smith, even though he was named Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter at birth. Currently, he is also known as W94579, his prisoner identification number at the state Department of Correction.

“He gets treated very well,’’ Timothy J. Bradl, Gerhartsreiter’s lawyer, said, describing his client’s life behind bars. “Everybody likes him. . . . He is reading. He is doing some writing. He’s just biding his time, thinking about his daughter, thinking about his future.

Yesterday, Gerhartsreiter lost a bid to reduce the four- to five-year state prison sentence imposed in 2009 when he was convicted of parental kidnapping in Suffolk Superior Court. Bradl argued before a panel of three Superior Court judges that the sentence was excessive, the result of excessive publicity about the case.

Bradl wanted to reduce his client’s sentence to a maximum of two years, which could have cleared the way for a parole hearing later this year. Barring intervention by the courts, however, he will not be eligible for parole until mid-2012, attorneys said.

He may be deported by federal immigration officials after he completes his sentence, Bradl said.

The judges, from the Appellate Division, did not explain their decision, but lawyers said it is rare for the panel to reduce prison time.

Assistant Suffolk District Attorney David Deakin applauded the decision. He said that Gerhartsreiter plotted to abduct his daughter during a supervised visit, showing a “stunning lack of concern for his daughter’s emotional and psychological well-being.’’

The case drew widespread publicity because of the frantic search for the little girl, which was followed by revelations that the German-born con man had dropped his original name after arriving in America in the 1970s, adopting multiple identities and claiming an aristocratic pedigree in the years that followed.

The story took a darker turn when California investigators named Gerhartsreiter a “person of interest’’ in the 1985 disappearance and presumed killing of a San Marino, Calif., couple.

Gerhartsreiter, who was using the name Chichester at the time, was the couple’s tenant. Yesterday, Bradl said he has asked the Los Angles County district attorney’s office to declare whether his client is a target of that investigation.

“This cloud remains over his head,’’ Bradl said. “Typically, a lawyer’s request for information as to whether or not their clients are targets of an investigation are honored. . . . But we’ve heard nothing but crickets from California.’’

A spokeswoman for the Los Angeles district attorney’s office declined comment. A spokesman for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, whose homicide detectives are investigating the disappearance of Mary and John Sohus, said yesterday that the investigation is active and that Gerhartsreiter remains a “person of interest.’’ He declined further comment.

When Bradl was asked what name he uses when he addresses Gerhartsreiter, he said, “My client.’’ Pressed by reporters for a more precise answer, Bradl declined comment.

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