Astor's son guilty of stealing her £125m fortune

The son of Brooke Astor, the late socialite and doyenne of the New York arts who died in 2007 aged 105, was found guilty by a Manhattan jury yesterday of taking advantage of her declining faculties to plunder her almost $200m (£125m) fortune.

After deliberating for 11 days at the end of a trial that began in the dim mists of March, the 12-member jury convicted 85-year-old Anthony Marshall of 16 out of 18 charges, including grand larceny, associated with defrauding his Alzheimer-afflicted mother.

It was a shocking end to an elder-abuse trial that will stand as one of the most sensational – and protracted – in New York history.

"I'm stunned by the verdict," said Marshall's defence lawyer, Frederick Hafetz. "We are greatly disappointed in it, and we will definitely appeal."

Marshall was accused of a swindling his mother in ways that ranged from awarding himself pay increases to persuading her to sell treasured paintings and keeping the proceeds and pressuring her into changing her will to leave him more of her fortune.

As the days of jury debate dragged on, the risk of deadlock seemed to rise and some wondered if jurors had not been weighed down by prosecutors who drew testimony from 72 witnesses. Among those witnesses were celebrities and relations who had on occasion entered the world of rare wealth and privilege that Ms Astor had enjoyed. They included Henry Kissinger, Barbara Walters, Annette de la Renta and a British cousin, Lord William Astor.

Though most had no direct contact with the crime, they were extensively grilled about Ms Astor's mental state and acuity in her twilight years.

Mr Marshall, who on several occasions brought the trial to a standstill because of episodes of ill-health, could spend between one and 25 years in prison, barring a successful appeal. He will be sentenced on 8 December.

His second wife, Charlene Marshall, attended court most days and found herself repeatedly depicted as grasping and deeply disliked by Ms Astor.

One witness said Ms Astor had once told her doctor that she would rather spend Christmas with her two dogs rather than "that bitch", a reference to her daughter-in-law. Mr Marshall had served as his mother's investment adviser. She had given a fortune to a variety of New York institutions over the years, including the Bronx Zoo and, most particularly, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, via the Vincent Astor Foundation, named after her late husband.

Legal experts had warned that proving the case against Mr Marshall would be tricky. "The challenge is enormous to show a woman's state of mind five-and-a-half years ago when she's no longer here," said Stephen Gillers, a New York University law professor, before the trial's end.

Marshall was found guilty of one of two charges of grand larceny, the most serious that had been filed against him, and of giving himself a raise of $1m without authority. His co-defendant, Francis Morrissey, a probate adviser to Marshall, was convicted of forgery and conspiracy and could face up to seven years behind bars.

In his closing statement at the end of the trial, the assistant district attorney who led the prosecution, Joel Seidemann, noted: "It has been said that a society is judged based upon how it treats its elderly," and said that Marshall should be held "accountable for stealing from and defrauding a great philanthropist, a great New Yorker and human being in the sunset of her life."

Marshall, who reportedly spent $100,000 on his defence, is a decorated US Marine who fought at Iwo Jima as well as a former diplomat who served as US ambassador to Kenya.

While he remained outwardly composed as the verdicts were read, his wife, who is 20 years his junior, appeared to be shaking.

Defence lawyers had contended that when Ms Astor bequeathed millions of additional dollars to her son she was entirely lucid. But the prosecution said that Marshall and Morrissey had together swiped $60m that Ms Astor had pledged to charities.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television The BBC have commissioned a series of programmes doing away with high-production values, commentary, script or drama
Arts and Entertainment
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable