Refuge of Scoundrels

After Criminal Charges, Claims of Mental Maladies

On a website chat room for members of Harding's class of 1982 at Bronx High School of Science, several former classmates posted notes ridiculing his claims. "Have you guys heard that our favorite crook . . . is now trying to claim that he's innocent due to mental defect?" wrote one former student. "I have to agree on one level. He was manic when he had our tax dollars."

Another said, "I don't think that depression . . . or other claims that his lawyers are making on his behalf are making any psychological sense or even legal sense. I pray," the writer added, "on behalf of the truly depressed," that Harding's claims are rejected.

Michael Gelman, who was Harding's roommate during their freshman year at Clark University in Massachusetts, said he did remember Harding exhibiting "vicious mood swings" during his college years, but never thought him out of control. "We thought he was eccentric," said Gelman, who called the Voice after reading about Harding. "He could be a manipulator, a little sociopathic. Sometimes he would lie and contradict himself. But to say he didn't know right from wrong? I find that a dubious argument. I would have to say I disagree."

Method to his madness: former Giuliani aide Russell Harding
photo: Keith Bedford
Method to his madness: former Giuliani aide Russell Harding

Details

More Tom Robbins Stories on Russell Harding:

"The Lush Life of a Rudy Appointee: How a Politically Tied Aide Spent $250,000 on Food, Fun, and Travel"

"More Lush Life of a Rudy Appointee"

"Party Harding"

"Harding's Hustle: Bonuses, Bargains, and Strip Clubs at the Housing Development Corporation"

"Low-Class Act: Russell Harding on Blacks, the Poor, and the Clintons"

"Bonus Baby: A Hefty Something Extra in Russell Harding's Last Paycheck"

"The Private Lives of Russell Harding"

"Where Are the Whistle-Blowers?"

"Harding's Conflict of Interest: After Pledging to Steer Clear of Dad's Law Firm, Son Aided a Client"

"Scandal Repair: As Harding Probe Continues, Cleanup Costs Grow"

"Russell Harding's Vanity Fair: 'Voice' Trail Led to Charges"

"The Harding Rules: In Scandal's Wake, New Safeguards at Housing Agency"

"The Heart of the Matter: A Former Internet Pen Pal's Mixed Feelings About Russell Harding "

"Ex–Giuliani Aide Admits Theft: Russell Harding's Deputy Cooperating in Probe"

"Harding's Collateral Damage: Bloomberg Drops the Hammer—Selectively"

"Moody Blues: Doctors Press the Case for Indicted Giuliani Aide Russell Harding

Harding was a big spender in those days, too, Gelman recalled. He often "picked up the tab when we went out," Gelman said. "He liked to look like a generous person, but he always put himself first."

His former roommate was "meticulous" in his attire, Gelman said. Unlike most of the rest of the college crowd, Harding "always dressed immaculately. His clothes were pressed and dry-cleaned." Twice a month, Harding would travel to New York to get his hair cut, Gelman said.

The roommates lost touch for a while after college. Gelman said he didn't learn until later that Harding had dropped out in his final semester. But they ran into each other again in the early 1990s in Washington, D.C., where Gelman lived and where Harding had gotten a job through his father working for then senator Alfonse D'Amato. They went to a few nightclubs and dined together, and then, Gelman said, he had to make an emergency trip to Europe, where his mother had fallen ill. "I had this old Toyota, and I left it with Russ. He said he'd take care of it while I was away. But when I got back, I found out he had left it in non-running order, illegally parked in his neighborhood. I had to have it towed to a garage."

Gelman said he tried to reach Harding about the car. "I couldn't find him. He just wouldn't return my calls."

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