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Prosecution experts: Muth a con man, competent for murder trial
Question of the Day
Prosecution experts say Albrecht Muth should stand trial for killing his 91-year-old wife, concluding in court filings that the accused murderer is not insane but is a con artist delighted with his own publicity, who since being confined to a mental hospital has written a five-volume memoir and selected an actor to play him.
Two reports from the prosecution's mental health experts filed in D.C. Superior Court last week describe the 48-year-old man as a "spellbinding storyteller," "masterful manipulator" and, most important, competent to stand trial.
"Mr. Muth built his entire life by constructing multiple and often simultaneous false narratives, tales within tales, like Russian nesting dolls," stated Mitchell H. Hugonnet, a Bethesda-based psychologist, in his analysis of Mr. Muth. "His well-developed skills as a con artist have been honed over at least three decades," and in the wake of the murder charges, he "appears to have been running the con and scam of his life."
Mr. Muth's unwavering argument that his late wife, Viola Drath, was the victim of a botched Iranian assassination attempt, coupled with various hunger strikes and claims of communication with heavenly bodies, have called his sanity into question. The reports from the prosecution's experts come after months of debate in court about his competency and whether to proceed with a trial, which is scheduled for October. Doctors at St. Elizabeths Hospital in recent months have filed a handful of letters briefly describing the testing and progress for Mr. Muth.
Mr. Muth was diagnosed by hospital doctors with a persecutory type of delusional disorder and schizotypal personality disorder. The diagnoses suggest that Mr. Muth has difficulty accepting reality, feels targeted or persecuted, and displays odd behavior or beliefs.
Last week, after Mr. Muth started another hunger strike, the court gave doctors at St. Elizabeths more time to complete a mental health review.
In the prosecution's evaluation, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Robert T. Phillips called the fasts "manipulative" and recounted a conversation with a doctor who said Mr. Muth's "recent announcement to begin fasting happened to occur just after he was informed that the Treatment Team was reconsidering his diagnosis and competency status."
The evaluation was based on hours of interviews with Mr. Muth as well as court documents, medical records, interviews with Drath family members and other materials.
Known by neighbors in his Georgetown community for wearing a camel-colored military costume, Mr. Muth told doctors he had served as a staff brigadier general with the Iraqi army. Despite emails to Drath in 2006 indicating he was in "Baghdad, on a mission," the reports cited employment records that showed Mr. Muth was working at a hotel in Miami Beach, Fla.
Certificates referencing achievements in Iraq came from a printing shop in Beltsville, doctors noted.
"Mr. Muth's lies serve to set the stage for the life drama he has written in which he stars, directs and casts others in supporting roles," Dr. Phillips stated in his evaluation.
When Dr. Phillips gave Mr. Muth a magazine article written about him, he said it would make "for a good movie" and Leonardo DiCaprio could play him.
"He would often use Viola's legitimate cache as a journalist and plug her into situations," Drath's daughters and grandson told the doctors. "Then he would see some sort of a convoluted long-term gain."
Among the guests at the couple's Georgetown home was former Vice President Dick Cheney, who attended a 2006 birthday party in his honor with a Secret Service detail in tow, the family told doctors. They also said Mr. Muth was able to organize a committee that worked with United Nations leaders and persuaded Gen. David H. Petraeus, former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, to attend a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
Mr. Muth wrote speeches for Martin Luther King's wife, Coretta, and when Mr. Muth decided to join the Catholic Church, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was his sponsor, Drath's family told doctors.
"By his own description, through complete invention and fabrication, he perfected the creation of personas that gave him unparalleled access and opportunity," Mr. Phillips stated. "In a very real sense, Mr. Muth has justifiable reason to believe that he possesses unique talents and skills that have lead him to some degree of fame and high living, if not actual financial fortune."
Mr. Muth called police on Aug. 12, 2011, to the couple's Georgetown row house, where he said he had found Drath unconscious on a bathroom floor. Initially treating her death as the tragic result of a robbery, police turned their investigation to Mr. Muth, who'd given Drath's family a letter dated April 11, 2011, within days of her death, stating he would collect $150,000 when she died.
Mr. Muth was arrested and jailed. After attempting a 40-day hunger strike, he was admitted to St. Elizabeths, where he has remained since February.
After his incarceration, Mr. Muth began writing a memoir titled "Judgment at Washington, Triumph of Illusion: a Journal of Life in D.C. Jail," a 250-page manuscript that contains his account of what happened to his wife and the aftermath of her death.
"Since being appointed Brigadier General, I have been on the radar of Iranian intelligence," Mr. Muth wrote. "The crime has all the elements of a professional hit. The killer entered and exited the house and committed the crime without leaving a trace."
Mr. Hugonnet, however, stated in his evaluation that even the title of the memoir points to his diagnosis that Mr. Muth is a narcissist who "is not, and has never been, mentally ill."
"The bold and pithy title ... illustrate[s] Mr. Muth's appreciation for his own uncanny ability to create and turn misperceptions into reality," he stated. "Mr. Muth is like the expert chess master able to play several chess matches all at once and still win."
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Meredith Somers is a Metro reporter for The Washington Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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