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Page last updated at 21:25 GMT, Thursday, 8 October 2009 22:25 UK

NY socialite heir guilty of theft

Anthony Marshall (8 October 2009)
Marshall said his mother willingly gave him the money he inherited

A New York court has convicted the 85-year-old son of late US socialite and philanthropist Brooke Astor of looting his mother's estate in her final years.

Anthony Marshall was found to have given himself an unauthorised pay rise of $1m for managing her finances.

Prosecutors had argued that there was no way his mother could have consented to the payment because she had advanced Alzheimer's disease at the time.

Brooke Astor left a fortune put at $180m (£112m) when she died in 2007.

Marshall, her only son, faces a mandatory jail sentence of between one and 25 years.

The jury also convicted one of the lawyers for Mrs Astor's estate, Francis X Morrissey Jr, on forgery charges.

'Stunned'

After a five-month trial - including more than 19 weeks of testimony and 12 days of deliberations - the jury at the State Supreme Court in Manhattan found Marshall guilty of first-degree grand larceny, scheming to defraud and 12 other counts. It acquitted him of two other charges.

FROM BBC WORLD SERVICE

In his closing statement, Assistant District Attorney Joel J Seidemann asked jurors to hold Mr Marshall "accountable for stealing from and defrauding a great philanthropist, a great New Yorker and human being in the sunset of her life".

Marshall's lawyer, Frederick Hafetz said he was "stunned by the verdict".

"We are greatly disappointed in it and we will definitely appeal," he added.

The two men will remain free on bail until they are sentenced on 8 December.

During the trial, prosecutors had portrayed Marshall as greedy and said he had exploited his mother's declining mental state to secure for himself millions of dollars of inheritance that were intended to go to charity.

High-profile witnesses

Marshall's lawyers had said his mother was lucid when she willingly bequeathed him the riches he inherited from her fortune.

Brooke Astor (file image)
Brooke Astor was at the centre of a bitter legal battle before she died

But the prosecution argued that Mrs Astor's Alzheimer's had advanced so far when she amended her will and made other financial decisions that benefited her son that there was no way she could have consented.

The jury heard from high-profile witnesses including Henry Kissinger, Barbara Walters and Annette de la Renta, among others.

Brooke Astor, who died at the age of 105, played a prominent role in New York's social life and gave millions to institutions such as the New York Public Library and the Carnegie Hall.



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SEE ALSO
Trial opens for NY socialite heir
28 Apr 09 |  Americas
NY socialite Astor dies aged 105
14 Aug 07 |  Americas


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