The Planned Release Next Month Of Rafael Robb, The Former University Of Pennsylvania Professor Imprisoned For Bludgeoning His Wife To Death, Was Cast Into Doubt Tuesday When A Judge Suggested Robb Had Committed Perjury By Lying About His Assets.
The turn of events came during a court hearing in Norristown, where Robb was asking for access to retirement accounts that have been frozen by court order. Testifying via video from a state prison in Erie County, Robb disclosed for the first time that he also has a bank account in France.
Judge Thomas M. Del Ricci noted that Robb never disclosed that account in sworn statements about his assets the former professor filed in 2013 during a civil lawsuit brought by his wife’s family.
“There’s no reference to France,” Del Ricci said, reading the 2013 affidavits to Robb. “That document is also under oath and penalty of perjury.”
The judge said the conflicting statements – both under oath – “has other ramifications and those ramifications are quite serious.”
The hearing then paused for several minutes as Robb consulted with his lawyers.
Eric Levin, his lawyer, said Robb would withdraw the petition – but acknowledged that his client could still face consequences for the testimony under oath before the hearing was halted.
“Your honor, I can’t make the record disappear,” Levin said.
As the hearing ended, Robb slouched against the wall, only half of his face visible on the video screen in the courtroom.
There were no prosecutors at the hearing but a spokeswoman for District Attorney Kevin Steele said later that the office will review the matter. Perjury is a felony-level crime in Pennsylvania.
Robb’s 2006 murder of his wife, Ellen Gregory Robb, was one of the more shocking killings in the region. The noted economics professor bludgeoned her to death as she wrapped Christmas presents in their Upper Merion home.
He later pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to up to 10 years. His former in-laws have since battled to keep him behind bars. But his prison term is scheduled to end Jan. 8.
Tuesday’s hearing was on a request by Robb to access $100,000 from the nearly $2.8 million has in retirement accounts – money that was placed in a trust after a jury awarded his wife’s estate $128 million.
Robb told Del Ricci he did not know how to access his French bank account, which he estimated had $5,000 and was opened 15 years ago when he spent a year there. But the judge appeared more concerned with Robb’s failure to disclose that the account exists.
“That seems to me to create a dilemma,” the judge said.
After he is released from prison, Robb will be in probation for 10 years.
Andrew Duffy, a lawyer for Ellen Gregory Robb’s estate, said after Tuesday’s hearing that regardless of whether Robb could face criminal charges for not disclosing the bank account, he would file a request for sanctions because Robb had lied about his assets.
Robb testified during that he had requested $100,000 after creating a budget of expenses, and he read aloud a list of budget items he had created.
Among them was rent. A Jewish group and a rabbi whom he met while attending services in prison helped him find an apartment in Pittsburgh that costs $900 per month, he said.
Without money, he said, “One option is to go to a shelter and the second option is to go back to the house where I came from.”
Robb told the judge he would prefer not to return to the Upper Merion home where he killed his wife, which is still jointly owned by him and Ellen Gregory Robb’s estate.
His disclosed assets total more than $3 million. They remain frozen as he appeals a ruling from Del Ricci last year that his retirement assets are not exempt from going to his wife’s estate. Superior Court has not yet ruled on that appeal.
Duffy, after the hearing, called Robb delusional, and criticized his list of anticipated expenses as too extravagant, characterizing them as an attempt to return to the quality of life he enjoyed before he killed his wife.
“Every time this murderer opens his mouth we hear of more lies,” Duffy said.
Gary Gregory, Ellen Gregory Robb’s brother, said in an interview Monday that his family will continue to work on their foundation, Every Great Reason, to help other victims of domestic abuse and violence.
“For us, it’s really a tough time, it’s 10 years,” he said. “And not just 10 years but he’s about to get out in a couple of weeks and Ellen’s serving a life sentence in the grave.”