- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 22, 2009

NEW YORK | The 85-year-old son of philanthropist Brooke Astor was sentenced Monday to as many as three years in prison for exploiting her mental frailty to plunder her millions, but the legal saga surrounding the society doyenne’s fortune will persist with planned appeals.

Anthony Marshall showed little emotion as state Supreme Court Justice A. Kirke Bartley sentenced him to one to three years in prison - the minimum term his conviction required - for looting the fortune of his mother, who gave away nearly $200 million to institutions and charities before she died at age 105 in 2007.

Marshall will remain free for at least the next month as his defense lawyers try to persuade an appeals court to let Marshall remain free on bail while his planned appeal plays out.

A fight over Astor’s estate continues in civil court, pitting Marshall against several charities. It was on hold during the criminal case.

“It is a paradox to me that such abundance has led to such incredible sadness,” Justice Bartley said. He gave Marshall until Jan. 19 to provide his medical information to prison officials and otherwise prepare for life behind bars.

Marshall declined to speak at his sentencing, where prosecutors described him as an unrepentant thief who deserved punishment, while his lawyers strove to portray him as a dutiful son who believed his mother wanted him to have the money and items he was convicted of stealing.

Before leaving court, the stooped, unsteady Marshall sat for a minute on a bench in the courtroom audience, his tearful wife’s arm around his shoulders. He nearly stumbled over a pile of snow as he and his wife, Charlene, walked to a waiting car.

Co-defendant Francis X. Morrissey Jr., 67, an estates lawyer convicted of helping Marshall steal his mother’s money, was also sentenced Monday to one to three years in prison. Like Marshall, Morrissey will remain free until Jan. 19 and is planning to appeal.

Marshall faced as many as 25 years in prison after being convicted of 14 counts, including grand larceny and scheming to defraud, for looting his mother’s nearly $200 million fortune. She had Alzheimer’s disease when she died.

Defense lawyers have said Marshall’s myriad illnesses would make any prison term a virtual death sentence.

Marshall’s Oct. 8 conviction followed a five-month trial in which Manhattan prosecutors painted him as an impatient heir who schemed to get his hands on his disoriented mother’s money, though she had already provided for him generously.

Prosecutors, who brought in such prominent Astor friends as Barbara Walters and Henry Kissinger to help make their case, said Marshall manipulated Astor into changing her will and even helped himself to artwork from her walls.

Marshall didn’t testify or call any witnesses at his trial. After his conviction, he aired details of his life - from childhood sorrows to his current health problems - and lined up some celebrity supporters of his own in a bid to stay free.

Al Roker, a fellow parishioner at Marshall’s church, praised the decorated World War II veteran as a “good son, father and patriot.” Neighbor Whoopi Goldberg told the judge in a letter that jailing him “would only amount to an unnecessary cruelty that would serve no real purpose.”

Prosecutors dismissed the letters as belated and irrelevant. Assistant District Attorney Joel Seidemann said, “When you steal millions from your mother, it isn’t enough to say you’re nice to Whoopi Goldberg.”

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