Astor heir jailed in US for looting millions

Anthony Marshall, 89, the only child of philanthropist Brooke Astor, begins jail term for stealing from her $200m fund.

Last Modified: 21 Jun 2013 20:53
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Anthony Marshall has exhausted all options for appeal and has begun his prison sentence of one to three years [AFP]

The 89-year-old son of the late philanthropist Brooke Astor has been jailed for plundering millions of dollars from his mother. 

Anthony Marshall, who was a Broadway producer, US diplomat and decorated military veteran, was ordered to begin serving his one- to three-year term on Friday after he lost a last-ditch attempt to stay out of prison over allegations that he forged Astor's signature. 

He was sentenced in 2009 but had been free on bail during an appeal. He lost a series of requests to receive a new trial and to stay out of prison because of his failing health.

Marshall was Astor's only child. Under her will, he stood to inherit tens of millions of dollars. After he was convicted of grand larceny, fraud and other charges, he instead received a settlement of $14.4m.

Marshall and his co-defendant, former estates lawyer Francis Morrissey, 72, were convicted in 2009 of looting the estate of Astor, whose fortune was estimated to valued at $200m.

Charity funds targeted

The philanthropist, whose causes included the New York Public Library and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, had Alzheimer's disease and died in 2007 at the age of 105.

Her charitable largesse was recognised in 1998 with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's top civilian honour. She had inherited the money from her third husband, Vincent Astor, a great-great-grandson of real estate and fur magnate John Jacob Astor, one of the first multimillionaires in the US.

Marshall arrived in the courtroom in a wheelchair with his wife, Charlene, crying and caressing his shoulder. He declined to speak during the brief proceeding, looking downwards but showing little reaction.

“We will always have each other, always,” Charlene Marshall whispered, as she cried on the lap his, according to the New York Daily News.

Prosecutors said Marshall exploited his mother's failing mind to loot her millions after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and bought himself expensive gifts, including a $920,000 yacht, with her money.

He took valuable artwork off her walls; and engineered changes to her will that gave him control of most of her estate, including millions that had previously been earmarked for her favorite charities, the Manhattan district attorney's office said.


Marshall's lawyers said that she knowingly changed her will to benefit her only child and that he had legal authority for gifts he gave himself from her money. His lawyers and doctors also have said that a prison term could kill Marshall.

They said he had Parkinson's disease, depended on a wheelchair and could not get out of bed, go to the toilet, bathe, or dress himself without help.

Morrissey's lawyers indicated they would continue an appeal that hinged on a sworn statement from juror Judi DeMarco, who said she felt threatened when another juror made hostile gestures, swore at her and started towards her during deliberations.

DeMarco, herself a lawyer, said she then felt demoralised when she asked to get off the jury but Bartley instead told the panel to keep deliberating civilly.

She said in the June 8 statement that she acquiesced in guilty verdicts that she did not in good conscience believe were legitimate.

Her claims were part of Marshall's and Morrissey's unsuccessful appeals; the state court's Appellate Division concluded the jury tensions appeared to resolve themselves, and there was no reason to believe that the ultimate unanimous verdict, confirmed by asking whether each juror agreed with the verdict, was the result of coercion.

But the defence lawyers argued the new statement merited at least a hearing.


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