Anthony Marshall got the news last week.
It wasn’t what the son of the late multi-millionaire philanthropist Brooke Astor wanted to hear, but it was exactly what I wanted to hear.
According to the decision by the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court, the 88-year-old Anthony Marshall’s conviction was upheld, and he will spend up to three years in prison for fraud and grand larceny – looting his mother’s estate, before and after her death.
He’d been convicted of the crimes after a jury trial in 2009 and was free on appeal. He hoped to avoid prison time by challenging issues of his conviction, because of his advanced age and health and because he’s a first-time offender.
The court did not agree, although no date was set for incarceration and his attorneys might seek a bail extension for him while they pursue other legal remedies.
The court also upheld the conviction of Marshall’s trust and estate lawyer, Francis X. Morrissey Jr. He was charged with forging Mrs. Astor’s signature on a will change. He’s now been disbarred.
Anthony Marshall, the heir to the Astor fortune, was caring for his mother in her later years as she was deteriorating from Alzheimer’s disease.
He was supposed to be managing her affairs and her estate, and he did that, but to his own financial advantage while at the same time subjecting his aged mother to what, by any standard, could be called abuse.
Brooke Astor was living in her New York apartment, supposedly attended by helpers but frequently not allowed visitors or calls. But reports leaked out from family and close friends that Mrs. Astor was a virtual prisoner in her own room, in urine-soaked bedding and clothing and existing in squalid conditions.
As she lost her hold on reality due to her illness, she was a perfect target for abuse – physical and financial.
And in the realm of financial, the money was there for the taking. Mrs. Astor changed her will several times during this period, which transferred tens of millions of dollars and property to Marshall. It is doubtful she knew what she was signing.
All the while, Marshall was controlling her property and running up questionable bills and payments, often to his own wife and paying expenses on her home and property. He also purchased a yacht and maintained it and was accused of taking items from Mrs. Astor’s apartment and selling them.
It was in these areas he was charged with 17 counts of grand larceny and mismanagement of business affairs and expenses.
The Astor name is legendary in New York society as well as in the area of philanthropy. The family fortune from fur trading and real estate goes back to John Jacob Astor, and the Astor name is seen on buildings and places across the city.
Vincent Astor was his great-great grandson, and he was Brooke’s third husband. She spent millions of her legacy from him supporting many worthy causes in New York, including scholarships and other philanthropic donations to the arts, libraries and museums.
She lived a long and active life and died of pneumonia in 2007. She was 105.
But by that time, the sordid story of her latter years at the hands of her son and his wife, as well as her being bilked by them of an estimated $60 million and their attempt to get even more from her estate after her death, had dragged the Astor name through the tabloids. Her grandson, Philip Marshall, sued Anthony alleging abuse of the then 104-year-old Astor.
Mrs. Astor would have been appalled and disgusted.
When I first learned about and wrote in WND about the reported abuse of Brooke Astor, I was struck that it didn’t make any difference whether the elderly person was some average person of modest means or someone as financially secure and well known as Mrs. Astor.
It illustrated to me, that age is a leveling factor all of us face, if we’re fortunate enough to reach that milestone.
But when that time comes and is marred by illness or other debilities, the person becomes dependent on others for care and protection.
Unfortunately, that’s when money comes into the picture along with old-fashioned greed. It doesn’t have to be millions, as in the Astor case, it only need be that one person has some and someone else wants it – even if it’s a family member or worse, a child.
I wrote that I saw the same thing happen in my extended family and at the time, I was naïve enough to be shocked and surprised.
The surprise has worn off. It happens too often, and judging by the hundreds of e-mails I received after my WND column, including from Mrs. Astor’s grandson, it’s not uncommon.
In fact, after the decision last week, the Manhattan District Attorney released a statement, as reported in the New York Post, referring to the abuse: “This trial underscored the importance of prosecuting elder abuse, particularly financial fraud perpetrated by those close to the victims.”
Such abuse is really a crime against the humanity of the old person and deserves more attention. Elders are ripped off and mistreated every day.
So, if all goes well, old Anthony, will cool his heels in the slammer for up to three years.
It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy, even though, in my opinion, three years isn’t nearly enough.