Being Christian Gerhartsreiter


Back when Jim Marzilli's bizarre, threatening, harrassing behavior was still big news, I argued that the Boston media weren't delving deeply enough into what was going on inside Marzilli's brain.

In the wake of this Globe story, I won't be able to make the same complaint about coverage of Christian Gerhartsreiter, a/k/a Clark Rockefeller. Take it away, Martin Finucane!

Is the man who calls himself Clark Rockefeller a con artist with a penchant for telling glamorous, self-aggrandizing lies and convenient forgetfulness? Or is he mentally ill, suffering a condition that has fractured his identity and memory?

That's something that jurors may have to decide in his upcoming trial on parental kidnapping charges.

In a document filed in court last week, the lawyers for Rockefeller, whose real name is Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, disclosed defense psychiatric experts' preliminary diagnosis of his condition as they laid the groundwork for his insanity defense.

The document said the experts had found that Gerhartsreiter had major depression and bipolar disorder. It also listed the intriguing diagnosis -- considering Gerhartsreiter's alleged past -- of "Dissociative Disorder implicating issues of 'identity' and with aspects of delusion and grandiosity."

The essential feature of the dissociative disorders is a "disruption in the usually integrated functions of consciousness, memory, identity or perception," according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association, which is the Bible of American psychiatry. The various dissociative disorders involve things like amnesia, being confused about your identity, or assuming new ones.

Allow me to confess: while I fully believe that some mental illnesses (e.g. schizophrenia and bipolar disorder) make it hard to hold individuals fully accountable for their actions, I also wonder if this is just another Gerhartsreiter con.

If it isn't--If Gerhartsreiter really does have serious mental illness (or illnesses)--he's done an awfully good job parlaying their symptoms into personal advantage over the course of his superfreaky life.

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