News & Politics

Two Court-Appointed Experts Say Albrecht Muth Is Competent to Stand Trial for Murder

A hearing is scheduled for Thursday in Superior Court in the death of Viola Drath.

According to a forensic psychologist who spent hours with him and put him through
a battery of tests, accused murderer
Albrecht Gero Muth is a psychopath, a practiced liar, and an accomplished con artist, but is not delusional
and is therefore competent to stand trial for the August 2011 murder of his wife,

Viola Drath, at their Georgetown townhouse. Muth’s alibi is that he was out of the house and
returned to find Drath’s body in an upstairs bathroom. The coroner found strangle
marks and bruises. Muth was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

Muth “built his entire life by constructing multiple and often simultaneous false
narratives, tales within tales, like Russian nesting dolls, in order to advance his
strategic objectives,”
Mitchell H. Hugonnet writes in a 27-page report that was sent to the court, prosecutors, and Muth’s lawyers,
and made public. He does not find Muth “mentally ill or cognitively compromised in
any way.” He notes that Muth has, in various ways, tried to manipulate doctors at
St. Elizabeths Hospital, where he is incarcerated, into declaring him incompetent
by virtue of being delusional. “Mr. Muth knowingly traffics in illusions, not delusions;
since incarceration at the DC Jail, he has been steadily trying to con everyone by
creating the illusion of a delusion,” the report reads.

Hugonnet’s report and another 24-page assessment from forensic psychiatrist
Robert T.M. Phillips are expected to be the focus in DC Superior Court on Thursday, when
Judge Russell Canan holds the latest in a series of hearings that pertain to Muth’s competency. The reports
are based on visits with Muth at St. Elizabeths on various dates in June, July, and
August, as well as conversations with hospital medical staff, members of the Drath
family, and a variety of printed materials, including police and court documents,
letters, e-mails, and, bizarrely, a 250-page draft of a memoir Muth has been writing
since his arrest titled
Judgment at Washington—Triumph of Illusion by Staff Brigadier General Albrecht Gero
Muth, Iraqi Army, Based on a True Story
. There is no evidence, as yet, that Muth was ever in the Iraqi Army. There is no
evidence, either, that he is “Count Albi,” another identity he claimed. The principal
thread of the memoir, based on excerpts quoted in the medical report, is that an Iranian
intelligence hit squad was after Muth for unspecified reasons, and killed Drath instead
by mistake. This is an opinion Muth has expressed in court, to his lawyers, and to
other medical analysts.

Muth’s lawyers,
Dana Paige and
Craig Hickein, appointed by the DC Public Defender Service, in an August 24 letter to the Office
of the US Attorney asked for “any and all information” upon which Hugonnet and Phillips
relied in their examination and analysis of Muth, which was requested by the prosecution
after the initial declaration of incompetency was made by Judge Canan in February.
Canan based his decision on information from the DC Department of Corrections. Before
the most recent request for materials, the defense sent a so-called Rosser letter
to the prosecutors, asking for other items. A number of documents have been received,
but Paige and Hickein claim not to have received everything that they consider discoverable.

The legal back-and-forth is interesting, because from the beginning, Muth has claimed
he wanted to serve as his own lawyer. He eventually relented to the appointment of
Paige and Hickein, but in his report, Phillips makes clear that Muth has a specific
view of the relationship and considers himself smarter and more able than his lawyers.
Hugonnet heard much the same. Muth told Hugonnet, “‘I like them, and there is no bad
chemistry,’” but Muth considers his lawyers—portrayed as professional and well-meaning
but challenged by their client—to be merely advisers: “He stated that he would leave
the direct examinations to his attorneys but that he would take the lead conducting
cross-examination.” Muth assured Hugonnet that this would be a “workable relationship.”
There is no comment on this strategy from Paige or Hickein.

Part of the apparent dispute with his legal team, Muth told Hugonnet, is that they
have not been willing to help him procure certain witnesses he feels will verify he
is an Iraqi general. Hugonnet writes, “Implicit in Mr. Muth’s legal strategy is the
threat of a deliberately created spectacle in the courtroom by issuing subpoenas to
national and international government officials”—including General
David Petraeus, the head of the CIA, whom Muth met while working on a charitable project, and possibly
even former Vice President
Dick Cheney, whom the Muths entertained in 2006, and Supreme Court Justice
Antonin Scalia, who came to the Muths’ Georgetown house for “multiple dinners,” according to Drath’s
family. Hugonnet says this proposed strategy is not a sign of incompetence. Muth “may
choose not to cooperate with his legal advisors, or he may decide to behave in a way
that compromises the dignity of the Courtroom; if so, these actions would be completely
voluntary and not the result of any mental illness.”

Since he has been at St. Elizabeths, according to the reports, Muth has been on a
variety of medications, including the antipsychotic Zyprexa, which was switched to
Seroquel, and low doses of anti-anxiety drugs such as Lorazepam and Klonopin. 

The reports contain several references to Muth claiming to have visions of the Archangel
Gabriel, who he says has ordered him to go on periodic fasts. It was the first fast,
which caused dehydration, that got him transferred from the DC Jail to the hospital.
It was during this period that he was diagnosed as delusional and declared incompetent
to stand trial. There is an indication that Muth stops and starts fasts according
to the vagaries of his case. The doctors say the medications he takes have caused
“no articulated change” in his claims or fasts. Phillips quotes one of the St. Elizabeths
doctors as observing: “Mr. Muth’s recent announcement to begin fasting happened to
occur just after he was informed the [St. Elizabeth’s] Treatment Team was reconsidering
his [delusional] diagnosis and competency status.” Phillips writes, “These episodes
of fasting seem manipulative and are not likely the result of psychotic process. .
. . [His] retreat to fasting causes dehydration and hospitalization resulting in both
attention via the sick role and potential delay in adjudication.”

Hugonnet and Phillips use a lot of the same clinical words and phrases in describing
Muth, including “immature,” “impulsive,” “grandiose,” “risk-taking,” “a strong need
for interpersonal control and dominance coupled with cold detachment,” and a belief
in his “own superiority.” The doctors describe Muth as being cooperative and calm
in his meetings with them, though both noted periods at the start where he conversed
with his eyes closed. “When questioned about this, he stated he does so in order to
concentrate and that it was an Arab cultural practice he learned as an Iraqi general,”
writes Phillips. Later, he stopped the eye-closing and maintained “fair to good” eye

Dr. Hugonnet says in his report that Viola Drath’s daughters and grandson—Judge
Constance Drath Dwyer,
Francesca Drath, and
Ethan Drath—were interviewed at length. (Muth’s parents reportedly are dead, and he is estranged
from two brothers.) Their observations are revealing and disturbing, though no particular comment is
attributed by name. Collectively, they said that “over the years, there were a zillion
stories and many personas. He adopts a persona and sticks with it for a couple of
years, and then he gets tired of it and abandons it.” When Muth and Viola Drath met,
he was an intern in the office of Virginia senator
Chuck Robb, and she was a journalist and married. They shared an affection for their native
land, Germany, German politics, and international affairs. A few years after Drath’s
husband died, she married Muth, upsetting her family. At the time she was 70 years
old and he was 26. At the time of her death they had been married for almost 22 years,
a marriage Muth described as being “of convenience” and which he likened to the relationship
arrangement in the film
Sunset Boulevard. Twice police were called to the house when Drath said he had assaulted her, but
she did not press charges.

In both reports there’s a revisit of the much-reported “social” life of Muth and Drath,
and it underscores a desperate strategy to be included, albeit on the fringe, of the
influential life in Washington. What the latest report makes clear is that the couple
kept a guest book, that Muth understood the importance of a trail of backup, and how
he used one set of important dinner guests to woo another. He organized ever more
ambitious social functions, pushing Drath to the fore, even writing scripted words
for her to speak to the guests. Her family, the report says, felt they saw through
this manipulation but also felt helpless to do anything about it. 

“Mr. Muth has a proven track record conning very savvy people to buy into his persona,
methods and schemes over the course of two decades,” writes Hugonnet. “If past is
prologue, Mr. Muth has more than ample reason to have significant faith in his methods
and ability to influence both the hospital and the legal system.” The doctor says
his ego knows no bounds. When he showed Muth a
New York Times profile with the catchy title “The Talented Mr. Muth,” the defendant called it “amusing”
and a “nice puff piece,” and suggested Leonard DiCaprio play him in the film. 

Even though Muth’s wife gave him a monthly stipend of under $2,000, Dr. Phillips says
profit was not his motive. For Muth, “it is acclaim, esteem and deemed importance
that are his prize, not financial gain. Like the character in the movie
The Great Impostor, Mr. Muth’s lies serve to set the stage for the life drama he has written in which
he stars, directs and casts others.”

An interesting glimpse into Muth’s view of his possible future comes from social worker

Christine Litwa. “Mr. Muth would talk to me and asserted, ‘I will be a civilly committed outpatient,’”
she is quoted as saying in the report. “We sat him down to make sure that he understood
that he could be on the pretrial unit for some time if he was not competent. Nevertheless,
he persisted and approached me about getting Social Security Income (SSI) after civil
commitment.” Hugonnet writes, “Ms. Litwa believed that Mr. Muth was comforted by the
idea that civil commitment was inevitable.” She said on several occasions he approached
her, asking for a case manager, because he expected to be released from the hospital

In the last pages of the report, the doctors emphasize their opinion that Muth has
“never been mentally ill,” but point to his primary diagnosis as severe and chronic
narcissistic personality disorder. “Mr. Muth’s elevated score of 29.5 places him in
the high ranking of psychopathy.” 

At the end, Hugonnet portrays Muth as the “expert chess master able to play several
chess matches all at once and still win.” He says his skills have been developed over
three decades and continue to define his life. “Mr. Muth appears to have been running
the con and scam of his life in the wake of being charged with the alleged First Degree
Murder of his wife of two decades, Mrs. Viola Herms Drath Muth.”

The next move is Judge Canan’s.