"There's good evidence she's got mental problems," said Assistant District Attorney John Gradel, who declined to elaborate on psychological evaluations of the banking-and-hotel millionaire.
"She's just not right in the head," Gradel said.
Defense attorney Marc Steinberg said psychologists believe that Tepper suffers from "anniversary syndrome," a post-traumatic stress disorder that causes her to lash out "about the third week of May."
To protect her privacy, Steinberg would not elaborate on the event in Tepper's past that makes May a trigger month. It has nothing to do with her former marriage to lawyer Kenneth Tepper, Steinberg said.
In an agreement between Gradel and Steinberg, Tepper left Montgomery County prison yesterday after posting 10 percent of $50,000 bail.
Tepper scratched the face of Urszula Kordzior, a longtime employee, then shoved Kordzior's daughter to the ground when the girl tried to intervene. Tepper had denied the charges, saying she had fired Kordzior and was trying to stop her from stealing her car.
In February, Tepper was given a year's probation for attacking Xiomara D. Salinas, 43, in 2006. Tepper was also ordered to perform community service and complete an anger-management course.
According to police, Tepper flew into a rage and attacked Salinas with a bag of carrots and a cell phone, among other objects, for failing to remove old produce from Tepper's refrigerator.
Tepper had a frozen half-smile and no comment yesterday as she walked to the hearing through a hallway lined with reporters. Her frosted blond hair was tied high in a ponytail, and, except for the handcuffs, her attire - a tailored cranberry jacket, a black scooped-neck shirt, and black pants - belied her inmate status.
"No amount of money got her out any faster," said Steinberg, who said Montgomery County prohibits bail for probation violations.
Tepper faces six months in prison for the two harassment charges and a year for the probation violation, Gradel said. He said he would see how her treatment went before deciding what punishment to recommend. The final decision will be Judge Bernard A. Moore's, Gradel said.
Tepper is expected to see her children, ages 2 to 13, before she enters the residential program, said Steinberg, who found his client to be pleasant and intelligent. The three oldest are staying with their father, Kenneth Tepper. Her 2-year-old son is with his father, Tony Fercos, star of a magic and wild-animal act for which Susan Tepper does publicity.
Asked whether Tepper had shared her thoughts about prison life, Steinberg said yes.
"She found the prison to be very well-run and well-organized."
What Is Anniversary Syndrome?Though its existence is debated,
anniversary syndrome has been characterized as an anxiety disorder triggered by a specific event or date.
For a soldier, the syndrome may be related to post-traumatic stress disorder. It can also afflict victims of natural or man-made disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina or the events of Sept. 11, who relive their original trauma.
People who have experienced a violent crime, an automobile accident, or the death of a loved one may also be susceptible to the illness.
In recent years, the term anniversary syndrome has been politicized by opponents of abortion rights, who use it interchangeably with post-abortion syndrome to describe the grief a woman may experience on the anniversary of the procedure.
- Nancy Petersen
Contact staff writer Kathleen Brady Shea at 610-701-7625 or firstname.lastname@example.org.