Wed, Apr 29, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Astor matriarch’s son stands trial in New York City


The son of Brooke Astor, matriarch of one of the US’ most storied and wealthy families, was accused in court on Monday of a heartless plot to defraud the socialite in her final years.

Anthony Marshall, a World War II veteran and former US ambassador, leaned on his cane as prosecutors opened the high-society trial in New York.

He is accused of exploiting his mother’s increasingly severe Alzheimer’s condition to get her to change her will in 2004, securing for himself millions of dollars intended to go to charities.

Marshall, 84, and alleged accomplice Francis Morrissey, 66, “literally pulled Mrs Astor out of the arms of her nurse … and dragged her behind closed doors so she could change her will,” prosecutor Elizabeth Loewy told jurors.

Marshall faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted on charges including fraud and grand larceny.

Astor, who had married into the clan of business tycoons, was one of the US’ most beloved philanthropists and had given away about US$200 million to New York institutions before dying in 2007, aged 105.

She “lived by the saying that it is better to give than to receive,” but ended up a victim of “greed,” Loewy said.

“This case is about greed — it’s the greed of two men, pure and simple,” she said.

The trial will likely hang on whether Astor was mentally competent when she changed her will.

Marshall, who fought with the US Marines at Iwo Jima, argues he stole nothing and that his mother willingly gave to him. Morrissey, an estate lawyer, also pleads not guilty.

Defense lawyers were scheduled to lay out their arguments yesterday.

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