'Clark Rockefeller' weighing guilty plea

January 22, 2009 2:52:58 PM PST
Prosecutors would recommend a prison term of four-and-a-half to five years if the man who calls himself Clark Rockefeller agrees to plead guilty to kidnapping his 7-year-old daughter, they said Thursday. Under a proposal discussed by lawyers and Superior Court Judge Carol Ball, Rockefeller - whose real name is Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter - would plead guilty to parental kidnapping, assault and battery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and giving a false name to police. The conversations occurred during a sidebar conference, which was overheard by reporters.

After the conference, Gerhartsreiter's defense attorney, Jeffrey Denner, said they hadn't decided whether to plead guilty. But he said Gerhartsreiter was considering it.

"We are thinking it through very carefully," Denner said.

Gerhartsreiter, 47, was charged with snatching his daughter, Reigh Boss, during a supervised visit in Boston in July and taking the girl to Baltimore, where he was captured a week later.

He also was charged with assault for pushing a social worker who was overseeing the visit. Gerhartsreiter jumped into a waiting car and the worker received minor injuries when he tried to grab onto the car and fell to the ground.

Denner would not reveal his own sentencing recommendation, but said he would ask the judge to consider several "mitigating factors," including his client's "mental health issues," which he didn't define.

The judge would consider both recommendations, but would not be bound by either.

"This was a man who was the primary custodian of his child, who deeply loved his child ... This is not some evil, child-molesting individual," Denner said.

The girl's kidnapping sparked a search from Long Island marinas to Caribbean islands. California authorities have labeled Gerthartsreiter a "person of interest" in the 1985 disappearance of a San Marino couple, Jonathan and Linda Sohus.

Gerhartsreiter, who is a German national, could also face deportation. Prosecutors said he used various aliases after coming to live in the United States in the late 1970s and never became a U.S. citizen.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys are scheduled to meet with the judge Feb. 3.