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'Rockefeller' asks judge to suppress statements

The lawyers for a German man who took on a new identity and is accused of kidnapping his daughter is asking a judge to prevent a jury from hearing most of what he said in a  police interrogation.
Image: Clark Rockefeller
Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, who calls himself Clark Rockefeller, arrives for a hearing at Suffolk Superior Court Monday, Dec. 1, 2008. Ted Fitzgerald / AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

The lawyers for a German man who took on a new identity and is accused of kidnapping his daughter is asking a judge to prevent a jury from hearing most of what he said in video recordings of a police interrogation.

During the first moments of a four-hour police interrogation played in court Wednesday, the man who calls himself Clark Rockefeller spoke wistfully about the 7-year-old daughter he has been accused of kidnapping but stops talking be he doesn't "want to be accused of lying later."

Rockefeller, whose real name is Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter, was arrested Aug. 2 in Baltimore after he allegedly snatched his daughter during a supervised visit in Boston. After his arrest, authorities discovered that he is a German citizen who moved to the United States in the late 1970s.

"I just wanted to be a father — that's all I wanted to be," he says on the tape.

"I just wanted to be with her."

Vague, rambling answers
When asked about anything other than his daughter — even basic questions about his life — he gave vague, sometimes rambling answers. He said he doesn't remember much of his childhood and isn't even sure where he was born.

"I'm not completely clear," he said. "I forgot a lot of things."

About 14 minutes into the interrogation, an FBI agent told him it's a crime to lie to a federal law enforcement agent.

"In that case, I better not say anything because I don't want to be accused of lying later," he said.

After the FBI agent tells him she hopes he wouldn't lie to her, he says, "I don't want to be accused of lying."

The interview then ends and doesn't start up again for almost another hour, due to technical difficulties with the recording equipment, prosecutors said.

But when the interview resumes, Gerhartsreiter continues to answer questions.

His lawyer, Jeffrey Denner, asked a judge to suppress everything he said after he expressed his concern about being accused of lying, arguing that he invoked his right to remain silent.

"Mr. Rockefeller very clearly, unambiguously expressed his desire not to speak anymore," Denner said.

Spoke for several more hours
But prosecutors argued that Gerhartsreiter did not make it clear he was unwilling to continue the interview, and spoke to them for several more hours during the interrogation at the FBI's offices in Baltimore.

"Everything about this interview suggests that he was willing to speak to police from the outset," said Assistant District Attorney David Deakin.

Judge Frank Gaziano did not indicate when he would rule on the request. Gerhartsreiter, 48, is scheduled to stand trial next month on charges of parental kidnapping, two assault charges and giving a false name to police.

Prosecutors say Gerhartsreiter kidnapped his daughter in July after losing custody of the girl to his wife in a divorce. He is accused of pushing a social worker who was supervising the father-daughter visit, putting the girl into a waiting car and heading to Baltimore, where they were found six days later.

Authorities say Gerhartsreiter used a string of aliases to work his way into wealthy circles in Boston, Los Angeles, New York and Connecticut.

California authorities have called him "a person of interest" in the 1980s disappearance of Linda and Jonathan Sohus. Gerhartsreiter, who went by the name Christopher Chichester at the time, rented a guesthouse at the home of Jonathan Sohus' mother in San Marino, a wealthy Los Angeles suburb. Gerhartsreiter has denied any involvement in their disappearance.

Gerhartsreiter's lawyers have said they will use an insanity defense. His trial is scheduled to begin May 26 in Suffolk Superior Court.