NYC heir, 89, denied new trial in mom's theft case

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — An 89-year-old heir convicted of helping himself to his mother's fortune was told Thursday to be prepared to start his prison term a day later after years of appeals, and the former lawyer convicted of aiding him was led away in handcuffs.

A judge turned down a request for a new trial for Anthony Marshall, who's the son of the late philanthropist Brooke Astor, and for co-defendant Francis Morrissey Jr. But Marshall had asked an appeals court to let him stay free on bail longer while it considered his argument that his health is so poor that it would be unjust to jail him.

His lawyer, Kenneth Warner, said Thursday evening that Marshall would have to surrender for prison because an appeals court had turned down a request for bail during further appeals; information wasn't immediately available from the court.

In a case that's had lots of legal maneuvering, it wasn't immediately clear whether Marshall might have further avenues to try to forestall prison. But for now, Marshall is due in court Friday afternoon and could well be on the verge of starting the one- to three-year prison sentence imposed on him and Morrissey in December 2009. It came after a trial that examined the finances and final years of the woman seen as the epitome of New York society.

Astor — whose third husband was a descendant of one of the one of the United States' first multimillionaires, John Jacob Astor — was renowned for her gifts to a roster of New York institutions. She was 105 when she died in 2007; she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

The Manhattan district attorney's office said Marshall, her only child, exploited her mental decline to use her money to give himself gifts and to mastermind changes to her will. His lawyers said that he had legal authority for the gifts and that Astor deliberately altered her will.

Marshall was excused from court Thursday, but some jurors were on hand as a downcast Morrissey, 72, heard that he would have to start serving his term. Morrissey was convicted of forging Astor's signature on a change to her will. His defense argued that if the signature was phony, he knew nothing of it.

Some jurors marveled after court at the time the appeals have taken.

"I thought I was done with this four years ago," juror Larry Kaagan said.

Morrissey's lawyers indicated they would continue an appeal that hinges on juror Judi DeMarco's statements that she was intimidated into a conviction by another juror's curses and hostile gestures. The other members of the panel deny it.

"It was a silly episode. ... She was never threatened," juror Olga Zugor said Thursday. No phone number for DeMarco could immediately be found.

An appeals court said DeMarco's assertions didn't warrant overturning a verdict she stood behind in court. But defense lawyers want the issue revisited because DeMarco recently swore to her account, which she'd previously told to a defense investigator.

"It's a question of the integrity of the justice system," said one of Morrissey's lawyers, Barry Bohrer.

The trial judge, Manhattan state Supreme Court Justice A. Kirke Bartley, was unmoved Thursday.

Having prosecuted mob boss John Gotti in the 1980s, "I know something of fear and intimidation," Bartley said. "And it simply does not exist in this case."

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