The Rockefeller Files
Intrepid staff writer Francis Storrs spent yesterday at Clark Rockefeller’s arraignment. What he found was more questions than answers.
Clark Rockefeller didn’t say a word until the last moments of his appearance at Boston Municipal Court. Instead, he stood quietly with his hands behind his back, wearing the baby-blue polo shirt and wrinkled khakis he was arrested in three days ago. That left prosecutor David Deakin to summarize the still incomplete picture of the Boston man accused of kidnapping his seven-year-old daughter.
When the defendant was arrested in Baltimore on Saturday, he gave police the name “Clark Rockefeller,” Deakin began. “The Commonwealth has great doubts that that is his legal name.”
The judge interrupted, asking a court officer if any records came up in searches for Rockefeller’s name. Nothing did. “Is that your client’s true name,” the judge asked Rockefeller’s defense attorney, Stephen Hrones.
Hrones said it was. (After the hearing, Hrones said that police have spent thousands of hours investigating his client but have yet to prove that he isn’t Clark Rockefeller.) Still, the judge later asked a court officer to research records for “Charles Smith,” a name Rockefeller used during his time in Baltimore.
While the court officer searched his computer, the prosecutor launched into a detailed account of the ways Rockefeller allegedly disguised his identity. He told his wife, Sandra Boss, that he was raised by an aunt and uncle after his parents died in a car crash, but he didn’t know when the crash happened. When Boss suggested he research his parents’ deaths on the Internet—surely they would have been covered by the newspapers—he told her that the experience would prove “too painful”.
But when interviewed by police on the night of his arrest, Deakin said, Rockefeller explained that he actually didn’t know what happened to his parents, or even where he was raised: “I don’t know,” he reportedly told police. “Maybe New York.” He had a vague recollection of a nanny with a Scottish accent.
At various times, Deakin said, Rockefeller told friends he graduated from Harvard, or Yale, or Oxford. But then he told police he never went to high school, but still managed to get a “first-rate” education by sneaking into lectures at Harvard and Yale.
Rockefeller also apparently explained his professional life in different ways to different people: he owned a business in Canada, or one in upstate New York; made a living as a theoretical physicist or a practical one. In Baltimore he said he was a ship’s captain.
Deakin claimed that Rockefeller declined to explain to police where his money came from—beyond making some of it selling ghostwritten term papers to students—or how much of it he actually has. The prosecutor said that Rockefeller’s wife had paid him $300,000 of the $800,000 they agreed upon in their divorce settlement, but Rockefeller’s spending has far exceeded that.
Less than a month ago, he bought the 3,200 square foot Baltimore carriage house where he ultimately took his daughter with roughly $450,000 in cashier’s checks. Inside the house, investigators reportedly found $12,000 in cash and 300 gold coins valued at approximately $270,000.
By the time Deakin came to his conclusion, he hadn’t established a case against Rockefeller but instead acknowledged how far investigators still have to go to build one. “We do not know his real name, when he was born or where he was born, who raised him—we cannot even verify that he is a US citizen,” Deakin said. “He is, in fact—and I know it sounds dramatic, but I think it’s simply true—he is a mystery man. A cipher.”
In light of the state’s inability to pin down Rockefeller’s identity to their satisfaction, Deakin asked that he be held without bail. The judge seemed to quickly agree, but the request drew heated objection from Rockefeller’s defense attorney.
“This isn’t a capital murder case, some sort of bail should be set,” Hrones said. “Let’s be reasonable.” Unconvinced—and apparently giving little allowance for the fact that Hrones had less than an hour to speak to his client—the judge declined to set bail and scheduled another court hearing for next month.
As reporters began to gather their notebooks and BlackBerrys, the judge asked the court officer if anything had come up from his search for the name “Charles Smith.” There was, in fact, a record for that name, a man whose information matched Rockefeller’s height and weight (but not his hair and eye color). They even had the same birthdate.
A faint buzz went through the room: It looked like the story’s most enduring mystery had finally been solved, that Clark Rockefeller might actually be Charles Smith. But it was then—after close to an hour of letting others tell their versions of his story—that Clark Rockefeller finally chose to speak for himself. He leaned his head in close to his attorney’s.
“That’s not me,” he whispered.
Image from NECN.com