High Society and Old Money Can’t Buy Freedom for Astor Family Heir

Anthony Marshall, son of philanthropist Brooke Astor
Anthony Marshall, son of philanthropist Brooke Astor


Old money, high society, and fame can’t solve everything. That is the case for Anthony Marshall, the 89-year-old son of the late Brooke Astor. Marshall lost his plea Monday to avoid going to prison after he was found guilty in 2009 for grand larceny. The victim was his own mother, the famed New York philanthropist, author, and socialite.

Brooke Astor was to New York nonprofit organizations as the name Kennedy is to politics. Her third husband, Vincent Astor, was the oldest son of John Jacob Astor IV who was a casualty in the Titanic disaster, and the great-great-grandson of America’s first multi-millionaire, John Jacob Astor. After her marriage to Astor, she became a member of the board of the Vincent Astor Foundation and continued to support all her husband’s philanthropies after his death. She continued her charity work after the foundation was liquidated. She was just as comfortable giving to settlement houses to help keep teenagers out of gangs as she was donating to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In 2006, Brooke Astor’s grandson Philip Marshall filed a lawsuit to legally remove his father, Anthony Marshall, as the socialite’s guardian. Philip, a professor of historic preservation at Roger Williams University, claimed his grandmother was living in squalor in her Park Avenue apartment and that his father had cut back on her necessary prescription medicine and doctor visits. He also accused his father of selling some of her art work without her knowledge and using the proceeds for his own interests. The lawsuit requested that Annette de la Renta, wife of fashion designer Oscar de la Renta, be appointed legal guardian. Henry Kissinger and David Rockefeller also submitted affidavits supporting a change in guardianship. The request was granted by New York Supreme Court Justice John Stackhouse.

Brooke Astor
Brooke Astor

Also in 2006, Marshall was accused of using close to $1 million from his mother’s personal checking accounts to finance theatrical productions. According to a New York Times article of August 1, 2006, the accuser Alice Perdue was employed in Mrs. Astor’s business office. With accusations coming from both an employee and Philip Marshall, and after a subsequent investigation, formal indictments were brought against Anthony Marshall and attorney Francis X. Morrissey, Jr. One of the charges was the signature on a March 2004 amendment to her original 2002 will stating that proceeds from the sale of her real estate were to be added to her residuary estate. Another 2004 amendment named Marshall as executor of his mother’s estate and the sole beneficiary of the residuary estate.

The 2009 trial resulted in the jury convicting the attorney, Francis X. Morrissey, Jr., of forgery, and Anthony Marshall of grand larceny. Both of them were sentenced from one to three years in prison. Marshall’s defense requested an appeal for freedom based on his frail health and age. Monday, June 17, 2013, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Kirke Bartley denied the request and noted that the same request had already been turned down by the New York State Supreme Court’s Appellate Division. Marshall’s attorney has asked that the 2009 conviction to be thrown out because a juror recanted her guilty vote. A ruling is expected on Thursday, June 20, if a retrial will be granted.

Brooke Astor died at her Holly Hill estate in Briarcliff Manor, New York, on August 13, 2007, at the age of 105. Some of the philanthropic and nonprofit organizations that she helped were the New York Public Library, Metropolitan Museum of Art, United Neighborhood Houses, Carnegie Hall, the Bronx Zoo, Columbia University, the Morgan Library, the American Museum of Natural History, and historic preservation throughout New York City, including Federal-style houses in lower Manhattan near Fraunces Tavern.

Written by: Cynthia Collins – Museum Correspondent

 

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