`Rockefeller' pleads not guilty to taking daughter

By: AP
By: AP

BOSTON (AP) -- A German citizen who calls himself Clark Rockefeller pleaded not guilty Monday to charges related to the kidnapping of his 7-year-old daughter off a Boston street in July.

Magistrate Gary Wilson set bail at a sum befitting a true Rockefeller - $50 million.

Investigators say "Rockefeller" is really Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, who has been living under fake identities since coming to the United States in 1978. He also has been identified as a "person of interest" in the 1985 disappearance of a California couple.

Gerhartsreiter pleaded not guilty in Suffolk Superior Court to charges he grabbed his daughter, Reigh, during a supervised visit, shoving away a court-appointed social worker, then fleeing in a hired car. He also was charged with lying to police about his identity.

The man and daughter were found Aug. 2 at a home in Baltimore. The girl has since returned to England, where she lives with her mother.

Gerhartsreiter has hinted he was a member of the wealthy Rockefeller family, but descendants of the oil tycoon said he is not a relative.

Gerhartsreiter's attorney, Stephen Hrones, conceded Monday that his client had lied about his roots. But he said there was no basis for the kidnapping charges because he contends his marriage to Reigh's mother was never valid, so no custody agreement could be, either.

Hrones said he would appeal the bail amount at a hearing Thursday.

Assistant District Attorney David Deakin asked that bail be denied, saying Gerhartsreiter had no meaningful ties in the area, had access to cash and has spun fantastic stories, such as claiming he suffered a childhood accident in which he was mute for 10 years.

Deakin said the stories "are literally so numerous and so varied they are proving to be difficult to keep track of, even using a database."

Hrones downplayed the stories.

"Sure he told some tall tales. A lot of people tell tall tales. That's not a crime," Hrones said.

Wilson agreed Gerhartsreiter should be eligible for bail, but set it at the highest sum his attorney could recall.

"He'll have to be bailed out by the federal government," Hrones said.

Wilson said there were at least 20 people on Wall Street, where Gerhartsreiter once worked, who could pay that sum. "It is not a bail that is beyond comprehension," the magistrate said.

The magistrate set a trial date for March 23.

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