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December 22, 2009

Was justice done in the New York state sentencing of Astor's heir?

I have not followed closely the crime and prosecution of Brooke Astor's son Anthony Marshall for stealing for his rich mother. But, yesterday's sentencing of Marshall leads me to wonder aloud in this space whether justice was done.  For some background, here is the New York Daily News coverage of the sentencing:

Brooke Astor's 85-year-old son is going up the river for one to three years.  Whether he comes back is anybody's guess.  Frail and white-haired, Anthony Marshall looked stunned Monday when a Manhattan judge sentenced him to state prison for looting his late mother's $185 million fortune.

Blinking behind his glasses, the ailing son of New York's beloved grande dame stood slack-jawed as Supreme Court Justice Kirke Bartley gave him a tongue-lashing.  "It is a paradox to me that such abundance has led to such incredible sadness," the judge said.  "What would your mother say if she were here?  Would she blanch at the spectacle?  Would she despise you for the breach of trust?"

Marshall, who has been free on bail since his arrest in November 2007, will be allowed to stay home for the holidays.  He must report to the big house on Jan. 19.  He faced up to 25 years in prison.

His lawyer buddy Francis Morrissey, 66, was also sentenced to one to three years in prison, for forging Astor's signature on a will....

Close behind him was Marshall's much-maligned wife, Charlene, her eyes wet with tears.  She was not charged with a crime, but prosecutors claimed her greed drove Marshall to rip off his senile socialite mother....  Meanwhile, Marshall's son Philip, whose elder abuse allegations sparked the criminal probe of his father, sent out a mass e-mail with a simple message, "No comment from Philip Marshall."...

Marshall was not called to the stand during the epic trial where he and Morrissey were convicted of fleecing Astor out of millions.  She died two years ago at age 105.

Bartley noted that Charlene Marshall — who everybody agrees was loathed by Astor — could inherit at least some of her millions. He said a "Solomon-like decision" would be to give all of Astor's money to charity. "However, I am constrained to follow the law," he said.

Bartley said he believed Marshall loved his mother, but he then added, "While justice may be blind, I most certainly am not....  The forces at work here are abundantly clear to me."

In lowering the boom on Marshall, Bartley dismissed an earlier plea for leniency from Marshall's lawyer John Cuti, who asked the judge if there was a way "to avoid some of the horrors of incarceration" for Marshall.  "He's not some venal credit card thief or pickpocket," Cuti said.  He argued that prison time would kill Marshall, who suffers from heart problems and had quadruple-bypass surgery last year.

Prosecutors asked Bartley to sentence Marshall to up to 4-1/2 years in prison and accused the 85-year-old of engaging in "grand theft Astor."  "He didn't steal from his mother to give to the Coalition for the Homeless," said Assistant District Attorney Joel Seidemann.  "He didn't steal from Brooke Astor to give to the poor and downtrodden."

Anyone interested in Anthony Marshall's backstory should be sure to check out this New York Times profile, which further reminds me during this holiday season that money, possessions and happiness are often only casual acquaintances.

December 22, 2009 at 01:11 PM | Permalink


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If anyone is looking for the details behind this case, I recommend the book "Mrs. Astor Regrets" by Meryl Gordon. The book provides a glimpse into Mrs. Astor's last years.

Posted by: Wendi | Dec 23, 2009 9:23:09 AM

I followed the case closely and doubt that justice will be served. As a person working to expose the growing issue of probate corruption and estate abuse, I admittedly come at this with an unapologetic point of view, but Monday's sentencing was just one more step - not a definitive determination. Marshall was convicted of 14 felonies in relation to theft of millions of dollars and attempts to take far more. The 13 additional felony accounts got one year of jail each but are concurrent with the mandatory sentence. Here's the EstateofDenial.com perspective:


Posted by: Lou Ann Anderson | Dec 23, 2009 3:06:19 PM

So Astor was convicted - What about the LAWYERS who FACILITATED this? Do they get off scott free? If so, there is something seriously wrong with this society and the whole human race.

Posted by: Gail Tedford | Dec 24, 2009 11:59:46 PM

What did happen to the attorney?
Behind every single guardianship petition in this country there is a lawyer advising and helping a client.
And, what what the final tally in legal fees and professional guardian fees that this poor woman paid for?

Guardianships are being used to fleece the elderly of their estates and their civil rights.
Following the money creates a trail that points to professional perpetrators of a scheme to defraud.
The Astor case, where millions were taken, is being used to showcase the "greedy son" taking from his mother but little is said about the accomplice.

Posted by: stopelderabuse | Dec 30, 2009 2:19:14 AM

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