December 21, 2009 / 6:12 PM / 10 years ago

NY socialite Astor's son given 1-to-3 year sentence

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The 85-year-old son of the late New York socialite Brooke Astor was sentenced to at least one year in prison on Monday for looting his mother’s estate of money that had been set aside for charity.

Astor heir Anthony Marshall arrives for sentencing at the Supreme Court in New York, December 21, 2009. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

Anthony Marshall, Astor’s only child, was sentenced to a minimum of one year and a maximum of three years by New York State Supreme Court Judge A. Kirke Bartley, who rejected a request from Marshall’s lawyers to spare him prison time.

“It is a paradox for me that such abundance has led to such incredible sadness,” Bartley said at sentencing.

Defense lawyers argued prison time would equal a death sentence for Marshall because of his age and poor health, and they appealed his conviction.

Marshall, who looked frail and walked with a cane, was expressionless when the sentence was handed down. At one point during the three-hour sentencing, he appeared to doze off.

He remains free on bail for at least the next 30 days to give defense lawyers time to find a medically appropriate prison and to apply for bail pending the appeal.

A jury convicted Marshall in October of grand larceny, falsifying business reports and other charges tied to his handling of his mother’s fortune, estimated to be worth around $200 million.

Prosecutors said he took advantage of his mother’s dementia to siphon away her money. Marshall’s own son and others have accused him of keeping his mother in squalid conditions, including making her sleep on a couch stained with dog urine.

STORIED FORTUNE

Astor, who married into the storied Astor fortune and represented a bygone era of philanthropic high society, died in August 2007 at age 105.

In amendments to Astor’s will, which she signed after she began suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, Marshall was given tens of millions of dollars and valuable real estate, prosecutors said.

Marshall’s lawyers said Astor voluntarily made changes to her will, signing over the bulk of the money to her son after deciding late in life that she wanted Marshall and his third wife, Charlene Marshall, to be comfortable financially.

Under state law, Marshall would have to serve one year before getting a review of his sentence. He could also become eligible for medical parole.

Astor’s estate lawyer, Francis Morrissey, who was convicted of forgery and aiding Marshall in defrauding his mother, also was sentenced to one to three years in prison.

Witnesses in the 19-week trial included television journalist Barbara Walters and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

Actress Whoopi Goldberg was among dozens of Marshall’s friends who submitted letters to the court urging leniency.

Editing by Daniel Trotta, Ellen Wulfhorst and Doina Chiacu

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